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Monday, December 19, 2016

Forget “Fake News,” Our Real Problem is Fake Christianity

Pleased with the efforts of his demonic protégé, Screwtape nevertheless cautioned Wormwood not to waken his waffling churchgoing “patient” to “a sense of his real position.” In chapter XII of C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape further warns Wormwood that his patient “must not be allowed to suspect that he is now, however slowly, heading right away from the sun on a line which will carry him into the cold and dark of utmost space.”

Screwtape goes on to contend that the man’s church attendance could even be used as an advantage in their demonic schemes. He explains,
As long as he retains externally the habits of a Christian he can still be made to think of himself as one who has adopted a few new friends and amusements but whose spiritual state is much the same as it was six weeks ago [before he became a Christian]. And while he thinks that, we do not have to contend with the explicit repentance of a definite, fully recognized, sin, but only with his vague, though uneasy, feeling that he hasn’t been doing very well lately.
After all, Screwtape concludes,
It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing…Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
Fewer and fewer Americans these days seem willing “to contend with the explicit repentance of a definite, fully recognized, sin.” Of course, to a great extent, this is because fewer and fewer Americans are able to recognize what is sin—or, many Americans are simply becoming comfortable with their sin, and are eagerly strolling along the “gentle slope” to hell.

Thus, no one should be surprised that a nation so deceived about sin is steeped in “fake news.” Tragically, peddling what I’ve dubbed “fake Christianity,” many in the church today are responsible for this widespread confusion and deception.

As I noted several years ago, the greatest lie ever told is that there is no God. The second greatest lie ever told is that the devil does not exist. (Even Verbal Kint was not fooled by this.) The third greatest lie ever told is that your (and my) sin is not really sin. Of course, each of these lies is a cousin to the others. They are all deceptions whose aim is to separate us from the greatest truth in the universe: we have a Creator who loves us and desires a relationship with us.

Sin keeps us from this relationship. Yet, instead of teaching and preaching the truth when it comes to sin and salvation, heaven and hell, far too many Christians have become tools of Screwtape—doing the evil bidding of those determined to see us cling to our sin. As I have often pointed out, this is especially true of sin in the sexual realm. The desire of many to be free to do whatever they want sexually has become the “compelling issue in the ‘City of Man.’

In a foolish desire to be “relevant” or “tolerant,” churches across the world—especially mainline Protestant churches and the Catholic Church—have abandoned long-heeded truths—especially on marriage and sex—for heresy. For nearly a century now, many church leaders—particularly those in the seminaries—have increasingly embraced a more liberal worldview.

Such watered-down theology has produced ear-ticklers like John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Gene Robinson, Jim Wallis, and the like, along with heretical nonsense such as the Jesus Seminar. For decades men (and women) like Spong and Borg made quite a name for themselves by rejecting the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus, His atoning death and resurrection, every miracle recorded in the New Testament, and so on. In other words, in a tragic attempt to make themselves “relevant,” such men and women have rejected virtually every tenet of the Christian faith, all the while still calling themselves “Christians.”

Thus, it is little wonder that mainline Protestant churches, along with the Catholic Church, have seen steep declines in their membership—especially in the U.S. Most anyone who truly takes to heart the message of the aforementioned ear-ticklers will soon figure out: “Hey, I can follow what these folks are preaching, and I don’t even have to call myself a Christian—or go to church, or pray, or repent, or do any of that hard stuff. Sign me up!”

The American Family Association recently noted that fake Christianity is especially impacting American youth. Instead of young followers of Christ, many U.S. churches are producing followers of, what Christian sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton have dubbed, “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Lacking virtually any belief in orthodox Christian principles, many American youth simply see their religion as a form of therapy that makes them “feel happy.”

In their book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, Smith and Denton conclude, “[W]hat appears to be the actual dominant religion among U.S. teenagers is centrally about feeling good, happy, secure, at peace. It is about attaining subjective well-being, being able to resolve problems, and getting along amiably with other people.”

Other efforts in preaching fake Christianity involve attempts by so-called Christians to reconcile the way of the Cross with that of Muhammad, Buddha, liberalism, secularism, or any other religion contrived by man. This is especially disturbing when one considers the threat that is militant Islam. I submit to you that there are no greater organized threats to liberty, justice, and truth in the world today than liberalism and Islam. Yet, instead of teaching and preaching the truth on these matters, the peddlers of fake Christianity have embraced this religious pluralism.

Poet Steve Turner describes well this heretical philosophy: “Jesus was a good man just like Buddha, Mohammed, and ourselves. We believe he was a good teacher of morals but we believe that his good morals are really bad. We believe that all religions are basically the same, at least the one we read was. They all believe in love and goodness, they only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.” Yeah, “only” those minor things.

Another prominent teaching of fake Christianity is the “prosperity gospel.” The promoters of this heresy are some of the most recognizable faces in America. Through a formulaic, man-centered approach to Scripture, this false teaching promises not only wealth, but good health and just about anything else a longing human might wish to “claim.” God is often presented as a heavenly Santa Claus eager to give us almost anything we ask for, if we only speak, or “declare,” the right words. Sin, suffering, hell, repentance, salvation, and the cross—you know, all that stuff that Jesus talked so much about—are virtually ignored.

Thanks mostly to Americans, the prosperity gospel is taught across the globe. As John Piper noted, “It’s a tragic thing that one of [the] greatest exports of America is the prosperity gospel. People are being destroyed by it; Christians are being weakened by it; God is being dishonored by it; and souls are perishing because of it. And a lot of guys are getting rich on it.”

Fake Christianity is a terrible plague upon our culture. Here are some warning signs of churches steeped in fake Christianity: If your church is more concerned with “social justice” than with the gospel of Jesus; if your church rejects the Bible’s clear teaching on marriage and sexuality; if your church is hesitant to engage in “controversial” issues such as marriage, abortion, transgenderism, and so on; if your church is more concerned with its campus than with exporting the Gospel of Jesus; if your church promises you financial blessings if you will only give to their cause; each of these is a sign that a church is more concerned with the approval of man than it is with the Truth.

On the other hand, real Christianity confronts the difficult issues of our time and tells the truth with courage, conviction, and love. (If America can’t rely on the church for the truth, where will she turn?)

Real Christianity stands up for the unborn and promotes and celebrates marriage as God gave it. Real Christianity ministers to the sick, poor, hungry, and broken. It builds churches, schools, hospitals, and orphanages. In order to further engage the world and spread the truth, along with leading the church, Christians are involved in politics, science, industry, education, entertainment, and even the military. They also peacefully, but strongly, stand up to the lies of liberalism, Islam, and the like. This is precisely why such Christians are found to be so “offensive.”

Part of the lure of fake Christianity is that it seems so inoffensive, so much easier, so much nicer and more modern, than the real thing. In fake Christianity, instead of surrendering to something greater than ourselves, we get to rule our own world, or so we think. Satan must take great pleasure in using the sights, the sounds, and the feel of authentic Christianity to lead millions astray. And I imagine that it’s his most effective means of luring people into his kingdom.

Copyright 2016, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor is the author of the brand new book The Miracle and Magnificence of America

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