Monday, June 10, 2013
True Christianity vs. Christian Moralism
It is common in the evangelical church today for people to verbally acknowledge that the Bible, as God’s Word, is the final authority for both what they believe and how they live. Yet in reality, a clear connection between that public confession and personal conduct is rare.
Instead of looking to the Bible, many professing Christians look to psychology and sociology for supposed solutions to personal needs and social ills. The rise of postmodern thought has similarly skewed the church’s understanding of right and wrong—as an unbiblical tolerance (in the name of love) has weakened churches to the point where they are as soft on truth as they are on sin. Popular television shows, from Oprah to Leno to the average sitcom, have had a tangible effect (and not for the better) on how American Christians think through everyday issues. The political arena, too, has played a major role in shaping an evangelical understanding of morality, as words like “Republican” and “Democrat” or “liberal” and “conservative” have come to redefine the difference between what is good and what is evil.
The fact is that far too many professing Christians live their lives, day in and day out, on the basis of something other than the Bible. As a result, their priorities reflect the world’s priorities, not God’s priorities. Their patterns of behavior and their plans for the future differ only slightly from those of their unsaved friends and neighbors. Their expenditures reveal that their perspective is temporal, and that they are vainly pursuing the elusive American Dream. Their shortcomings, when they admit to them, receive the same fault-free labels that the world ascribes (“mistakes” or “diseases” or “addictions” rather than “sins”), as they search for answers in psychology, medication, or the self-help section of the bookstore. Though they adhere to an external form of traditional Christian moralism, there isn’t anything particularly biblical or Christ-centered about how they live.
Yet it is in the lives of sinners who have been transformed by the Gospel of grace, that a distinctly Christian ethic must be fleshed out. True Christianity is not defined on the basis of external moralism, religious traditionalism, or partisan politics; but on the basis of a personal love for Jesus Christ and a desire to follow Him no matter the cost (cf. John 14:15)....