Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Why the Church is Tempted to Practice a Christless Christianity.

Author of Christless Christianity (reviewed here on January 15, 2009), my former classmate Dr. Michael Horton (Ph.D., Oxford) was recently interviewed by Mark Galli in Christianity Today. Based on my own observations from visiting many churches, I believe Dr. Horton ably sums up so much of today's Church in his brief response to the question, "What is at the core of the temptation to practice a Christless Christianity?"

"When the emphasis becomes human-centered rather than God-centered. In more conservative contexts, you hear it as exhortation: 'These are God's commandments. The culture is slipping away from us. We have to recover it, and you play a role. Is your life matching up to what God calls us to?' Of course there is a place for that, but it seems to be the dominant emphasis.

"Then there is the therapeutic approach: 'You can be happier if you follow God's principles.' All of this is said with a smile, but it's still imperative. It's still about techniques and principles for you to follow in order to have your best life now.

"In both cases, it's law rather than gospel. I don't even know when I walk into a church that says it's Bible-believing that I'm actually going to hear an exposition of Scripture with Christ at the center, or whether I'm going to hear about how I should 'dare to be a Daniel.' The question is not whether we have imperatives in Scripture. The question is whether the imperatives are all we are getting, because people assume we already know the gospel—and we don't."

For the full interview posted November 19, 2009, click here.

Not all is lost, however. For example, a former pastor who appears chastened from his imperatives-driven approach seems to reject it as he transitions from being a full-time "pastor to the real-world". Here are some of his key observations: "[1]. I had NO clue the kind of financial, job, and family pressure most of our people were living with[.] [2.] Getting up and preaching what people should do is easy. Living it out is not. [3.] So much of what I preached, I will never preach again because the fact is it is not possible to do in the real world. [4.] I worked less than the people I pastored. Ministry was my job yet I asked our people to serve, volunteer, etc. AFTER they have worked 50-60 hour work weeks."