To a certain extent I did and still do agree with those who cautioned that the death of the Church is not quite as near as the Pew Study might lead us to believe. Although I think some of the deflection amounted to No True Scotsman arguments, declining numbers don’t necessarily equate to death. Though, they should certainly cause the Church to pause and ask some serious questions about itself and its future.
Why? That must be because our future isn’t in God’s hands. Our fate isn’t determined by the Almighty. Rather we are the masters of our own destiny right?
After the initial shock wore off, I couldn’t help but think back on that debate when I heard about Jerry Falwell Jr.’s words to the students of Liberty University at the close of a recent chapel service. After revealing he was carrying a gun in his back pocket, Falwell declared, “I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them.”
Falwell then encouraged his students to get their own concealed carry permit (via a free school sponsored course) so that together they could “teach [those Muslims] a lesson if they ever show up here.” His words were met with rapturous support by the student body. As I sat in stunned silence, my inner Star Wars nerd couldn’t help but channel the words of Padmé Amidala. So this is how Christianity dies…with thunderous applause.
So Christianity will die because Jerry Falwell suggests that people protect themselves from insane Muslims? That is quite the non-sequitur. First of all nobody honestly believes that Falwell meant to imply that Christians should kill every Muslim everywhere, Secondly, Falwell is not representative of all Christianity and it is quite self-contradictory to be upset at Falwell for painting with a large brush and then turn and do the same. Let’s not let paltry things like being intellectually honest get in the way though…This is about saving Christianity from itself, and that ought to involve some dishonesty!
For a while now, declining Church attendance, the rise of the nones, and an increasingly secular society have all seemed like the biggest threats to the future of Christianity in America.
But that is not where the existential danger comes from.
The future of Christianity in this country isn’t threatened by shifting demographics.
The Christian faith in America is on life support because far too many of us have simply stopped living like Jesus.
The Biblical Jesus or the one you’ve made up that you want us to follow? I agree that you have likely stopped living like Jesus. He was honest and an intellectual. You are neither.
Christianity is facing an existential crisis in America not because our pews aren’t quite as packed as they used to be, but because – through an embrace of violence, hatred towards Muslims, callous rejection of refugees, demonization of the LGBT community, and a whole host of starkly anti-Christian actions – we’ve allowed the gospel of Jesus to be supplanted with sanctified and extreme right wing politics.
Oh Right. Jesus didn’t teach about sin or hell or any of that demonizing stuff… gotcha. It is thoroughly disingenuous to suggest that the Gospel can save people who are not sinners. God loved the Pharisees… that’s why he characterized them in such glowing terms. What were those tender phrases again? White-washed tombs? Vipers? Sons of the devil? Those are terms of endearment right?
It’s no secret that American Christianity has been hijacked by the political right since at least the days of the Moral Majority. But in recent months and years we’ve witnessed a full-frontal assault on the particular and peculiar values that define the Christian life.
For example, the way of Jesus is a way of peace and a sometimes unfathomable commitment to nonviolence, but American preachers can now carry an instrument of death into a space dedicated to the proclamation of life and be met with boisterous applause.
I always wait for people to back this up with scripture references. It never seems to happen for some reason. The Bible does not commit its followers to always being peaceful. There is a time for war. There is a proper attitude of hate towards evil. We all know this, but Zack has decided to ignore that. Probably because he is a second or third generation Arminian who has drank from the poisoned waters of that theology for so long wrong just feels right and we can never question our feelings.
The way of Jesus is one of radical inclusion where new paths are blazed to welcome in those shunned by dogma and religious authority, but the identity of Christianity in America has become all but synonymous with the list of those who aren’t truly welcomed within our doors.
What the Bible means and what Zack means are two different things. The Bible includes sinners who are CHANGED by Christ. Zack thinks telling sinners that they are actually sinners and are actually condemned is too hurtful and will dim the chances of them getting saved. That the opposite is true is well established in anyone whose heart has actually been regenerated.
The way of Jesus demands we care for the sick as if we were caring for Christ himself, but we’ve gone out of our way to try to deny healthcare to anyone we’ve decided hasn’t earned it.
The Bible was even stricter. If you do not work, you do not eat. Of course you might know this if you cracked it open farther than your favorite devotionals.
The way of Jesus finds good even in those of other faiths, but we’ve made hating and ostracizing Muslims one of our top priorities.
Melodramatic much? Depends on what you define as hateful Zack. Of course you define everything that disagrees with you intellectually as hateful because you cannot think of an honest way to deal with it from scripture. That is because you know you are a liar. Hating Muslims is not my top priority, nor is it anywhere I have ever been (and I’ve been in a lot of churches Zack).
The way of Jesus places caring for the stranger at the center of salvation itself, but in our fear we’ve closed our hearts and our borders to immigrants and refugees in need, leaving them to drown in the open sea, wither in the desert, and fall victim to unspeakable evil in their homeland.
Nope. Not even close. The Bible places submitting to an almighty God through Jesus Christ as the center of salvation. The Cross is what Paul chose to know, not the stranger.
There are manifold explanations for how we got here, but at its root, authentic Christianity is being eradicated in America because the way of Jesus has been replaced by a list of ideas which, once agreed to, apparently liberate us from actually living like Jesus.
We say we believe in the Bible and God and that Jesus rose from the dead, but once we claim our certificate of orthodoxy we seem to think we’ve been freed from the obligations of grace, from the cost of discipleship, from the way of Jesus that is defined not simply by the ideas in our head but the actions of our lives.
Ugh. Zack all you have done up til now is give us the ideas in your head and links to scriptures you think are supposed to show you to be right. When you do finally quote scripture you still don’t explain how it actually means what you think it means. Context defines usage.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
I underlined an important contextual clue for you.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.
So in order to be clear, the first passage was meant to back up the claim that we ought to be more concerned about clothing strangers than the Gospel. Even though the context clearly provides a recipient for the service provided. There are other Biblical references dealing with brothers and sisters who refuse to work but that doesn’t fit the narrative.
The second passage cited concerns the theological idea of how faith without works is dead. Understand that not all works are by faith, that implied by the above as well. So what works can be by faith? Only those rightly divined from the Word of God.
Notice what is not included: The “way of peace” justification, the “inclusion” justification, nor the “way of Jesus finds the goods in other faiths” justification. I am truly curious to see Zack try to make those work. That actually might have been a profitable read instead of this confused incoherent psycho-babble.
The way of Jesus is not simply a sales pitch meant to convince us to agree to a list of doctrines in order to avoid hell.
It’s a call to a particular and peculiar way of life.
We can believe all the “right” things, but orthodoxy does not emancipate us from orthopraxy. Rather, it demands we live out the radical, revolutionary, and world changing faith we’ve embraced.
No doubt. You just cannot fathom that real Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy are also defined by the whole of Scripture itself and not the select passages that don’t really support your neo-liberal views.
Sadly, we live in a strange place and time where it seems that publicly assenting to the right dogma is some sort of sanctified Get Out Of Living Like Jesus Card.™ This is why Jerry Falwell Jr. can carry a gun into sacred space and call for the death of his enemies even though Jesus unequivocally declared “Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also,” and “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Context. Within the community versus outside the community. Loving your enemies does not mean bringing them into your home and making them family. This is where we request that you stop imposing foreign categories into the text. Nor does loving your enemies mean you gloss over the very thing that you are at emnity with.
Despite the glaring incongruity, Falwell’s students can applaud and his admirers defend his pseudo-righteous call to “self-defense” because because he’s already confessed his assent to the core list of right ideas. Anything he says or does beyond that is of marginal consequence – even if it directly contracts the life and teaching of Jesus.
This is the sad, cheap state of Christianity in America.
It’s Christianity without discipleship, Christianity without the cross, Christianity without Jesus Christ living and incarnate.
It no longer matters if we actually live like Jesus, so long as we agree that Christian dogma is true.
Thankfully, Christianity will almost certainly never completely die off in America (and is no doubt thriving in unexpected and isolated pockets of our country), but Christianity as a particular and peculiar way of life directly reflective of Jesus of Nazareth sure seems to be on life support.
And unless more Christians are willing to speak out and denounce the demonic theology being proclaimed in the name of Jesus, we might as well go ahead and pull the plug.
Because regardless of shifting demographics, without authentic discipleship, the future of Christianity in America looks hopeless.
- You are not Orthodox. You would not assent to any of the propositions that define Orthodox Christianity.
- You cannot have Orthopraxy without Orthodoxy. Meaning: You are not a Christian.
When you stop serving your real master and repent of your wicked views, perhaps you will understand why I, as an Orthodox Christian, do not begrudge Mr. Falwell or his students the ability to defend themselves from an outside invader who means them harm.
Falwell is by no means Orthodox or representative of Orthodoxy either. But he is not wrong to want to protect the innocent from the barbarians and the effeminate so-called Christians.
Also one should note that I reviewed a very similar argument in “Hate the Bride? You Probably Don’t Know the Groom.” In which, I covered an argument with a very similar conclusion. That is, that people are leaving the church because it isn’t inclusive enough.
Jesus was not inclusive, his views were decidedly exclusive. “No man comes to the Father but by me.” Many were discouraged by this hard teaching and left. According to you Zack, Jesus was sinning by excluding these people. Which is, of course, absurd.
The push for inclusiveness is yet another demonstration of the integration of Marxism and Christianity. Sorry Zack, we see through you and the terribly confused theological horse you rode in on.