Monday, March 2, 2015
Christianity and The American Way
The state of affairs that has developed between Christianity and American culture is more than a little interesting. Two extremes are emerging in terms of versions of Christianity within American culture. One version of Christianity is the version that subjects itself to American philosophies of life top to bottom. In this version of Christianity, the individual is the captain and pilot of his own ship. The Bible is useful in a few scenarios and only in a few scenarios but it must be kept in check, in subjugation to the modern minds of enlightened men and women that know better than the ancient, out dated, backwards thinking, misogynists, narrow minded bigots, often blood-thirsty, and hyper-patriarchal men that wrote it. Modern American minds are thought (only by American culture) to be superior, not only to the minds of the men God used to write Scripture but also to the rest of the world in many cases. The superior attitude of the typical individual in American culture is both fascinating from a psychological standpoint, and incredibly appalling from a moral perspective.
This modern, enlightened, sensible, but perverse understanding of Christianity is the product of unregenerate scholars, pastors, teachers, Christians, and Churches. This perversion begins with a rejection of the ancient tradition of Christian doctrine as it is expressed in Scripture. Moreover, this version of Christianity begins with a rejection of the traditional view within Christianity on the subject of Scripture. The two most distinguished statements of faith in modern Christian thought are the Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confession. The former was adopted by the Presbyterians and in modified form by the Congregationalists while the latter served as the Baptist expression of Christian belief. With only a few nuances, the documents are virtually identical and it is understand that the Baptist Confession used the Westminster Confession for much of its work. I should add that the Congregationalists modified version of the Westminster Confession is known as the Savoy Declaration. First, most Christians in modern American Churches are completely oblivious to these historical documents. This fact tells you a great deal about the mindset of the typical American Christian and their leaders. The reason I mention these confessions is first and foremost to point out that all three of them begin with what creators believed was the single most important factor within Christianity: a proper understanding and perspective regarding the Christian documents we now call the Bible. Each confession holds to virtually identically language concerning the high position of Scripture within the Christian community. For these men, Scripture was over the Church, something to be appreciated, understood, believed and obeyed. This was the only acceptable disposition of the Christian and his attitude toward sacred Scripture.
In the mind of the modern American, it is the individual that is elevated and placed over Scripture. In the minds of the overwhelming majority of modern “Christians” Scripture is no longer viewed as something that holds us captive and frees us from ourselves and the sin which we so dearly cherish, but rather, it is precisely the other way around. Modern Christians, American ones especially, think it is their duty to rescue Christianity from the embarrassing claims and teachings of the Bible. Hence, anything in the sacred writings that runs the risk of offense to the modern sensibilities of the autonomous and enlightened mind is either cut away from the text overtly or reinterpreted covertly so that the Bible can co-exist with the tastes and preferences and sensibilities of the modern American mind.
If there is no one standard by which Christians ought to live their lives, eventually we end up in a radical free-for-all where anything goes. And it is this exact place that I believe best defines the pop Christianity of American culture. The numbers of negotiable beliefs that are on the table seem to extend of every Christian belief that has come to shape Christianity from the beginning. This pop Christianity over time has called into question and deemed acceptable just about every modification Christian doctrine imaginable.
The very first movement of this pop Christianity of course is the challenge to Scripture as our final authority for faith and practice and long held Christian belief that Scripture is of divine origin and must be believed and obeyed. The London Baptist Confession of 1689 opens with this line, “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.” Once Scripture is depreciated to the place where human minds can either dismiss it or subject it to radical reinterpretation, the Christian worldview is no more. The distinctive of Christianity as a religion evaporates upon a non-Christian perspective of the nature of sacred Scripture. Once this move is made, Christianity becomes a religion based upon the autonomy and authority of the human mind. And there will be as many versions of that religion as there are human minds tinkering with it. When the sole standard for what must be believed and obeyed is discarded either by way of overtly relegating it to the ash heap or covertly by perversion of what it expresses, then every other competing standard has an equal opportunity to sit at the table. And whatever that religion is, at the end of the day, I can tell you what it is not. It is not Christianity in any true sense of the word, Christian.
When pseudo pop Christians become the face of Christianity in a culture, mass confusion and chaos follows. This is exactly what has happened in American culture. Pop Christianity has come to the place where it rejects the Bible as the inspired and inerrant word of God. PC rejects the view that one must believe that Jesus is divine in order to be a Christian. PC rejects the sexual ethic of biblical Christianity, not only permitting sexual promiscuity within its community but also rejecting the biblical teachings concerning marriage as between a man and a woman. PC has accepted the view that you can engage in the perversion known as gay sex and still be a Christian. PC has rejected much of the OT teachings about God and His activities and believes one does not have to accept these stories as historical realities in order to be genuinely Christian. Things like abortion on demand, female leadership, divorce on demand, and a host of other ungodly practices have been deemed morally acceptable with pop Christianity. There is essentially no difference between pop Christianity and the general values principles of American culture. Pop Christianity is a religion that uses the language of historic Christianity but then it empties that language of all its historic content and replaces it with modern philosophies based on the sensibilities of modern enlightened minds that know better than the ancient documents of sacred Scripture.
There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. (Prov. 14:12)