Candy Christianity: The Counterfeit Gospel of the American Church (Part 1 of 4)

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Our pews are full, but our heads are empty. Our spirits starve for truth.

Perhaps these pews are full because our heads are empty, having been spoon-fed a gospel of convenience, ease and worldly accommodation. The hollow theology pouring forth from American pulpits today may have attracted quite a crowd, but for the most part these are little more than gatherings of rebels come to loot the honor of God as they relentlessly seek to conform Him to their will.

The economy crumbles and every imaginable alarm is sounded. Our understanding of God’s nature collapses and barely anyone is left aware to notice. The scope and magnitude of this tragedy cannot be overstated.

We’ve dismissed His holy Word. It now often serves merely as a prop or pretext; a place for us to yank comforting expressions out of context so that we might go about the business of building self-esteem through the perpetual redefinition of God and His will to accommodate our wicked inclinations.

We’ve fled from His loving instruction. “Dogma” and “religion” have become mostly pejorative terms. At best, this has produced a state of perpetual spiritual infancy. At worst (and the worst here is sadly commonplace), we’ve seen heresy embraced and exalted by minds utterly devoid of the knowledge and wisdom His Spirit inspires and provides.

We send our children to be “educated” in a system boldly operating under a formal declaration of war against our God and then comically feign puzzlement at the predictably catastrophic consequences. In order that the wolves might inadvertently ingest some tiny bit of spiritual goodness, so goes our logic, we freely feed them our children. Such is the level of distortion that has come to our view of evangelism.

We’ve trampled His sacred name. We will do anything with it. We will wear it on our backs, our bumpers, our hats and even on our feet, as if figuratively treading upon His name just wasn’t blasphemous enough.

We’ve mocked His sovereignty. We simply cannot abide the surrender of all glory to Him. As such, we tenaciously cling to “our share” of honor and power by reducing the sovereign, holy Lord of creation to the role of a helpless doorknocker begging hopefully for entry, powerless to open the door without our ascent and assistance.

And we do all of these things in His name.

We are fools by fallen nature, and that natural inclination towards rebellion has been accommodated at every turn as we’ve come to conform to the world that we were commissioned to transform. Our seeker sensitivities have enabled the church-based cultivation of a rampaging horde of secular philosophies and lifestyles.

The passion for soul sustaining truth that should define His people has been diluted to the point of dismissal. Our once burning desire to know and worship God with all of our minds, bodies and spirits has given way to a feeble parody of worship and life.

Untethered to a perfect, sovereign and holy God, we must wither and fade. We are withering and our great fade continues to this very day. We are a people in peril. Our pride has had its way with us. We have forsaken our commission and forgotten our God.

Most graciously, He has not returned the favor.

“Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

CS Lewis

“The Word and Spirit go together. Doctrine and life go together. To separate them is to frustrate the work of sanctification within us and to grieve the Holy Spirit. To separate them is to avoid the integrated, committed life that pleases God.”

RC Sproul

A Missionary Alliance pastor named AW Tozer summarized the pathetic state of the church this way:

“The church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic. This low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking.

With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit. The words, “Be still, and know that I am God,” mean next to nothing to the self-confident, bustling worshipper in this middle period of the twentieth century.

This loss of the concept of majesty has come just when the forces of religion are making dramatic gains and they are more prosperous than at any time within the past several hundred years. But the alarming thing is that our gains are mostly external and our losses wholly internal; and since it is the quality of our religion that is affected by internal conditions, it may be that our supposed gains are but losses spread over a wider field.”

Pastor Tozer recorded this observation in 1961.

The church has withered and faded much since then.

As I write these words, Joel Osteen has emerged as the most recognized evangelical leader in America, the Trinity Broadcast Network is the most powerful evangelical media force on earth and Benny Hinn still has a gig.

It’s bad.

Really bad.

So it is that we find our story unfolding today in a most disconcerting manner. The slide from truth to error, away from God and towards oblivion, continues seemingly unabated and as we contemplate the scene before us, our hearts are rightly inclined to sink.

This is where God wants us today, at this very moment. He has brought us to this low place for great purpose. The author of our tale is unshaken. He is unchanged. And He has taken us here so that we might come to know Him more fully and ultimately glorify Him completely.

This saga was born, as all good things are, in the mind of God. From the very foundation of the cosmos, He crafted this tale. His is a holiness without blemish, a sovereignty without question and a love without flaw. He is the source and goal of every good thing, including stories such as ours.

This truth is no small thing. It is everything.

Continued in “Candy Christianity: A Kinder, Gentler God” (Part 2 of 4) 

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Copyright 2009-2014 Scott Alan Buss

3 COMMENTS

  1. My most dear friend, I know of no other person on the net (or in person) that has the strengh to bring something like this to light. I am a young Christian living in Mission Viejo, and over here it is very bad. Of course it would be like this, since I live right by a large seeker friendly church. I am eternally grateful for this article

    – Issac, 22 yrs.

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