The following was from last week’s FAC newsletter, but it was suggested that I post it here for those who may not be subscribed to the newsletter. I hope that it is helpful!
What if: being a Christian reduced to being a good person? If it were up to us to make ourselves better by following the rules? If salvation by grace through faith were no longer in the vocabulary of our culture? [Moralistic]
What if: the ultimate goal of the Christian faith reduced to personal happiness? If the language of sacrifice became alien to normative Christian life? If God’s mission for the world was eclipsed in the blinding shadow of God’s mission for me? [Therapeutic]
What if: God were not present? If God simply spun the universe into existence, gave us some rules to obey, and told us he’d be back to destroy the earth someday, along with all the people who didn’t obey him well enough? [Deism]
The Bad News
According to the National Study of Youth and Religion, the largest study ever conducted on youth and religion in America, the questions are not “What if…” questions; they are “Now that…” questions. The analysis of the findings has been distilled to a new religion that calls itself Christian, which the study is calling moralistic (being a good person) therapeutic (feeling good about oneself) deism (God is merely the distant, disinterested Creator and Judge). For example, the study, which originally surveyed 3,290 teens, conducted follow-up two-hour interviews with 267 of them. Of the 267, only nine mentioned love for God, seven—the resurrection, six—salvation, four—the Trinity, and out of 267 interviews only three mentioned the grace of God. THREE! Church membership and kingdom membership, it would seem, have no definite correlation. In our attempt to make the Gospel attractive and relevant to teens’ lives—rather than making their lives relevant to the Gospel—it appears that an entirely new gospel has been made. And this gospel is bad news.
The Good News
But the Good News is that the Gospel does not depend on us to be effective. The Good News is that God has a history of saving people who don’t understand what he is doing. The Good News is that God is not bound to the statistics and projections of this study, that God is no respecter of sociology. The sociologists in Egypt said their slaves would always be slaves. The sociologists in Babylon said the exiles would always be exiles. The sociologists in hell said the damned would always be damned. But God disrupts what should have been according to statistics with what will be according to his will. So whether we’re looking at a sea in Egypt, giants in Canaan, Goliaths in battle, death in life, discipleship in a persecuted Church in Rome, or discipleship in a compromised Church in America, the Gospel still proclaims that Jesus is the Victor! And this Gospel is indeed Good News.
We are not to fret, therefore. We are only to proclaim our confidence in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was sent from God the Father, maker of heaven and earth, to save his fallen world; who was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead according to the Scriptures; who ascended back to the Father and is seated at his right hand, who will return to put a decisive end to evil in the consummation of the new creation, which was inaugurated in his resurrection, and which is realized in the holy and apostolic catholic Church by the presence of God himself in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead and who will raise us from the dead; who proceeds from the Father, who is the immanent and personal presence of Triune God, who is worshiped and glorified with the Son and the Father by those in whom He dwells and by Whose indwelling participate in the very life of God in holy communion; who empowers and enlivens the Church to be the witnesses of Christ to the world that he is making new. Now what could be more relevant, more attractive, than that?
For further reading and bleak projections about the future of Christianity in America, see:
Smith, Soul Searching
Dean, Almost Christian
For further reading and the hope of glory that will fill the earth as the waters that cover the sea, see: