Last week we began looking at some ideas that I think the American Christian church could consider. I make these recommendations as a professing Christian with a high view of what the church can accomplish when it acts within God’s will.
7/We need to be reading the Bible a lot more than we do. This is true of non-Christians, of course, but it is also true of Christians. Among Christians there is a lack of Bible knowledge, and that lack of Bible knowledge is being inherited by our children. God gave us the Bible from which to learn. The Bible includes plenty of material from which to build a systematic theology, but it also includes lots of true stories which help us put meat on the bones of our theology. It seems to me it is very difficult to understand what Christianity means in practice unless one has a growing knowledge of the Bible. We should be reading the Bible over and over. Multiple readings are needed by all of us. The Bible admittedly is not an easy book to read, but it repays the work we put in. We can eat an elephant if we do it gradually, over weeks and months, one bite at a time. The same is true of reading the Bible. Persistence pays off in the long run, as is true of many things in life. If we read the Bible, we can then in good conscience require our children also to begin to read the Bible.
8/Pietism is a deadly problem in the church. Pietism reduces the faith to the doings of the church and (sort of) the family. This is not what the Bible teaches. The faith applies to all of life, and it applies to our interactions with the world, including our interactions with the civil authorities. Pietism gives us an excuse to abdicate our responsibilities. We Christians, like the rest of mankind, tend to look for and to like excuses! But our excuses are not plausible.
9/Antinomianism (anti-God’s-law-ism) is a deadly problem in the church. This applies right across the board, whether we are dealing with church and family things, or with the laws of the civil government. We are unwilling to see what God says and to adjust our thoughts and actions appropriately. We want to live how we want to live without reference to what God requires. Then we are disappointed when our antinomianism ends up trashing our families, and ends up bringing our Christian civilization to the brink of disaster, and to the brink of possible disappearance. God saves us by grace, but grace brings with it concomitant responsibilities. If we refuse to fulfill those responsibilities, we hurt not only ourselves and our families and our church, we also gravely harm the world around us. The world needs to see and hear a biblical form of Christianity–and so do we.
10/Warmongering is a deadly problem in the church. Many, perhaps most, American Christians are cheerleaders for the countless warring interventions our country makes. These interventions bring disaster, crippling, and death, to many millions of people. These are people who have done nothing to us to deserve the horrific fate we bring upon them. When we don’t intervene via war, we constantly intervene in other ways. When did God appoint us to run the world, when it is clear we cannot run even our own country with any sanctified common sense? We the murderers of 61,000,000 unborn children have been appointed the moral arbiters of the world? I don’t think so. It is good that we love the place where we were born, but it is the exact reverse of good that we support all the wicked behavior of our country in its dealings with foreign countries. The U.S. behaves with the grace of a hog on ice, and we Christians shrug or more generally cheerfully acquiesce. Consider the possibility that God will tell us that we Christians have blood on our hands. What are we going to say if He tells us we are murderers, cripplers, and torturers? Will He just give us a free pass because we are Christians? Consider the possibility that He will not excuse our callous carelessness. If we think that Jesus Christ automatically will go our bond because we claim to be Christians, maybe we will be unpleasantly surprised by God’s response. How dare we shrug at the horrors we commit abroad.
11/Zionist Christianity is a deadly error. Christians who support the state of Israel no matter what are misreading the Bible. They are bringing support and aid to enemies of God. If we want to help Jews and Muslims in the Middle East, that can be done by supporting evangelistic efforts to reach both people groups. Jews and Muslims need the gospel. We have the gospel, and many of us have enough money to be able to support evangelistic outreach. If you want to help Jews and/or Muslims, belly up to the bar with money to support evangelists. Far too many Christians are idiotically supporting Israel, due to an intellectually disgraceful misreading of the Bible.
12/Mentoring of mature Christians toward immature Christians can be a very good way to help people grow in the faith. We seldom attempt such mentoring, whether as a church, or as individuals. Lots of Christian families are struggling with how to live with practical wisdom in the everyday world. They just keep on struggling, and the church almost never steps in. Nor do Christian individuals step in. It would be embarrassing to do so, no doubt–at least at first. But it needs to be done! It can be done graciously, at least by some of our number. Not all Christians would be gracious in trying to help, but many would be. We have countless millions of struggling Christians. Here are a few categories: fathers who need help in learning how to lead their families; single mothers whose homes are chaotic; young men who are unable to get and hold a job; families that struggle with getting their finances under control. Those are simply examples; the way that ordinary Christians face practical difficulties are endless. If we Christians really cared about such people, we would find a way to help them. We would involve our own lives in the lives of our Christian brothers and sisters who need help. But we almost never do this! We let people struggle, struggle, and struggle. People with great potential for good in building the kingdom of God are left to keep on struggling–to their harm and to the church’s harm, and to the world’s harm. Non-Christian Jordan Peterson has struck a nerve with his encouragement to young men that they need to be working and productive. He is not even a Christian, but he sees how harmful it is to young men when they are not responsible. If a non-Christian can understand that, why cannot we Christians see it? If we saw it, and if we helped struggling young men get a job and earn some money and earn some self-respect, would not that be a wonderful thing? The potential for Christians to mentor Christians surely must be one of the most underutilized aspects of our current brand of Christianity. The potential is so great for good! But we do so little. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, surely we are no higher than a 1. A practical Christianity will begin to use mentoring to help Christians. Mentoring may also allow us to help non-Christians, and may encourage some of them, in the long run, to join us in the faith. That would not be rotten either.
I hope to continue with this series next week.