Somebody wrote recently that blogs are echo chambers.
I cannot disagree. I am aware that I play the same songs over again, but then that is the nature of preaching.
One of the themes I go back to is the divide between the modernist version of Christianity and the historic faith.
Modernism, as I have described it, quietly removes the supernatural from the Christian religion. The mission of the de-mythologizers is to remove the “myth” and by that they mean all of the supernatural elements in the New Testament and in the practice of the faith. They do this while retaining all of the traditional language, but they don’t actually believe in the supernatural reality of it all.
So, for example, the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 is famously turned into a parable about the need to share your lunch. Jesus walking on the water? That never really happened, but instead it is a nice story about the need to step out of the security of our little boat and trust in God more, and that when we stop trusting in God we will sink under the water.
The deception involved is astounding. So you will have countless pastors and priests stand up in the pulpit, read the stories of Sacred Scripture and preach lovely sermons about them–all the time believing that they are no more than ancient stories “made up by superstitious people who believed in that sort of thing long ago before science”.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Muggins in the pew thinks her pastor really believes these things happened like she does. At Easter he says in his best stained glass voice. “Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Today we celebrate new life in Christ!”
Of course, what he really thinks is “Isn’t it lovely to think that the followers of Jesus continued to transmit his wonderful teachings long after his tragic death.”
Followers of the historic faith however, insist that Jesus rose from the dead. Physically. Historically. It was not, as a well known Anglican bishop said, “a conjuring trick with bones.”
Call us superstitious, pre-scientific dinosaurs, but we (and the majority of Christians) believe the miracles really did happen. While we admit that the stories may have been exaggerated or details altered in the re-telling, that they are essentially based on historical events which were astounding and miraculous.
The problem is the church hierarchies, academics and elite establishment hold to the modernist version.
Those who follow the modernist version must be left with mere good works. I characterize this as “saving the planet rather than saving souls” or “making the world a better place rather than preparing to go to a better place.” However I describe it, the bottom line is this: a religion from which all the supernatural elements are removed can only be left with a moral code–ethical expectations, and that must be no more than good works or “making the world a better place.”
The other descriptive for this is “moralistic, therapeutic Deism”.
I have said this is not only a false religion, it is no religion at all.
Why? Because religion, from the dawn of time, has been mankind’s relationship with the unseen world. That’s what religion IS. Anything else is a philosophy, a moral code, a political agenda or an ideology.
If what is left is a moral code does that mean that people like myself who believe in historic Christianity think good works–the corporal works of mercy don’t matter? No. We think they not only matter, but they are imperative. They are the necessary outworking of our supernatural belief.
Like John Calvin said “You can’t get into heaven through good works, but you can’t get into heaven without good works.”
Therefore the historic Christian–the supernaturalist–has both the supernatural AND good works. The modernist who denies the supernatural dimension has only good works. Similarly, when it comes to the Bible stories, the historic Christian has both the belief in the supernatural miracle AND the preaching point that comes from the miracle. We believe Jesus walked on the water AND we believe it is a lesson about faith. The modernist who denies the miracle is left with only the lesson about faith.
Is this a real divide? Some of my critics have said it is a false dichotomy but they have not said WHY it is a false dichotomy. If the modernist does, after all, believe in the miracles and the supernatural, then he is really one of “us” and there is no quarrel. If he does NOT believe in the supernatural and the miraculous, then my point stands and there is a deep divide between us.
The fact must remain that a version of Christianity which is ONLY about making the world a better place, feeding the hungry, helping the immigrants, stopping abortion, preserving marriage (and whatever else worthy cause you wish to list) is not Christianity at all. It is not a religion at all.
It is a worthy cause.
Far be it from me to denigrate the worthy causes. We need them and, as I have written above, they are a vital part of the outworking of our faith.
The point I keep repeating however, is that they (in and of themselves alone) are not the faith.
I have compared this crisis in the church elsewhere to Arianism. See Arians, Aliens and Body Snatchers.
Arianism was a sensible religion. It was respectable and attractive to the elite, the intellectuals, the ruling class. It was a religion that denied the divinity of Christ and proposed that he was a very good man–maybe even a man who shows us what it means to be divine–a man who was self actualized, mature, good and a completely fulfilled human being.
But a man.
The supernatural was weeded out, and in using vague terminology they re-interpreted the truth of the Christian gospel.
The same old thing has been going on ever since.
It was a false religion then. It still is today.