The Theological Bankrupt American Church?

How many in America do you think actually hold a biblical worldview, defined as:

  • Belief that absolute moral truth exists
  • Bible is totally accurate
  • Satan is really real
  • Heaven isn't earned by good works
  • Jesus lived a sinless life
  • God created the world and now rules the universe today

Answer: only 9 percent, according to this Barna Survey.

Born-again Christians

Now then, the research also reveals that those labeled "born again Christians," were twice as likely as the average adult to possess a biblical worldview. What does 'twice as likely' look like? That's saying that only 19% of born again Christians held the the above worldview in it's entirety! 

Those in the born-again camp break down like this:

  • 79 percent of those identifying as “born again Christians” firmly believe the Bible is accurate in all its teachings
  • But only 46 percent of these “born agains” believe in absolute moral truth..
  • only 40 percent believe Satan is real..
  • only 47 percent strongly reject the idea that you can earn your way to heaven...
  • only 62 percent of the born-again Christians surveyed strongly believe that Jesus was sinless.

It reveals, as Jared Wilson noted, that over the last generation, "not only has America become less Christian, but professing Christians have become less Christian." This is astonishing and sobering news that to me reveals opportunity. 

Jared says the church is suffering terribly from theological bankruptcy, and I of course would agree! 

My thoughts? I have four, for now:

1. Jesus said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32). The problem is many are diluting the real Jesus! They are watering Him down. People aren't meeting the real Jesus who not only gives scandalous grace but also many demands, if we would call him friend. 

John 15:12–15:

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Ray Ortlund was the first to introduce me to the idea of a "real Jesus" vs a "theoretical Jesus." He wrote

The real Jesus. The historical Jesus. The biblical Jesus. The Jesus who stands over all of us and tells us to repent. That unsettling Jesus is the one we want. Without him, nothing will ever change. With him, our hearts can finally crack open to the love of God. How can we disconnect with the Jesuses of our own invention and reconnect with the real Jesus?"

For too long the American church has lifted up a theoretical Jesus, a one-sided Jesus, a Jesus of our own invention, a Jesus who is more like a product than a Person. 

2. Paul said he determined to know nothing but Jesus and Him Crucified in the church of Corinth, and I'm sure he'd say the same to American churches. People not only need to see the real Jesus but they also need to know the cost of following Him, and then actual follow Him -- seeing the world as holding no treasure and Christ as the source of our satisfaction.

Jesus said: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily." 

Piper says: "For the Christian the cross of Christ is not merely a past place of substitution. It is also a present place of daily execution.

Simply put we are not a cross-centered group of Christians in America. Too many think of the cross as a mere event in history, failing to see it as a way of life. Jesus said to take up our cross DAILY! 

3. It shouldn't be surprising. Just as God softens hearts, we see the same gospel hardening hearts as well. 

DA Carson says: "This is why gospel preaching is so amazing. We offer the gospel to all. We let the gospel-lion out of its cage to do its work in separating sheep from goats, vessels of mercy from vessels of wrath. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing (non-elect), but to us who are being saved (elect) it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18)."

Tim Keller says we only have four options before us: Jesus is one of the following: Lord, Lunatic, Liar, or a Legend. Only four possibilities. Many seem him as merely a a great moral teacher...some even recognize that he changed the world, but they wouldn't go so far as saying He is Lord: that he has the exclusive way to God. And I would say any view other than seeing Him as Lord is revealing a hardened heart toward Christ. 

4. Which leads me to this thought: I'd be curious if there is a survey like this that would reveal how many believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead? Because if you believe he rose from the dead, then you'd have to accept all that he said. You'd have to see Him as Lord of all, and I think all the other biblical world-views would be easily embraced. 

What are your thoughts on this survey? I'd love to hear them! 

Advice for Christian Readers: 3 Tips from Charles Spurgeon

“Master those books you have. Read them thoroughly. Bathe in them until they saturate you. Read and reread them…digest them. Let them go into your very self. Peruse a good book several times and make notes and analyses of it. A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books he has merely skimmed. Little learning and much pride comes from hasty reading. Some men are disabled from thinking by their putting meditation away for the sake of much reading. In reading let your motto be ‘much not many.’ ― Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students

The recipe Spurgeon gives us readers: 

  1. Minimal - You need to read, but read fewer books well. 
  2. Master - one book thoroughly mastered is much better. 
  3. Meditate - don't ever forsake meditation just to read many books.

One rule I keep for myself is not to finish books I don't like. Life's just too short to waste time on crappy books. That said, if it's good book that is affecting me, that's cue to slow down and simmer in the remember "much [learning] not many [books]." As a heavy daily podcast listener, I see my need to slow down there too to avoid pride. 


The Impulse To Write

I saw this quote from Piper in my feed last week and it came at a time where I was losing clarity on what I'm called to. Of course I know I'm called to many things, but the itch specifically to write again came back after I saw it. 

Living only for Justice?

I was listening to panel discussion titled "Biblical Foundations for Seeking God's Justice in a Sinful World." 

Here's how John Piper ended it:

"The Gospel unleashes in the world a commitment NOT to live for justice but to live for more than justice. Justice is minimalist. A life devoted to treating people as they deserve is not a christian life. God in the gospel treated us better than we deserve. That's not justice. WE DON'T GET JUSTICE in the Gospel. God got justice in the gospel. We get grace. And He unleashes on the world a people in churches who treat each other way beyond justice. You shouldn't walk through the day or through your life thinking, "How can I be just? How can I be just? How can I be just?" You should be thinking, "How can I be gracious? loving? kind? love my enemy? go the extra mile?.." The Gospel unleashes way beyond justice. Christians shouldn't be known mainly as the justice people. That's minimalist. You start there and then you go beyond. Christ will be known in the culture when we treat people better than they deserve not as they deserve." 

And I love earlier how he said, "not to sound too dovish up here..I think we ought to take out Boko Haram. Just take him out. It's overdue. When I say we, I don't mean the Christian church. (several laughs and at interjection of thought of church interceding he said "if no one else will..I mean there's 300 girls..I'm not into war. I hate that kind of thing. And when it gets away and over and over again I think romans 13 exists for something and that the police in the country and the military and the national level carries the sword not in vain and there's certain kinds of stuff that should be reacted to with very swift violence." Later: "I don't really know whether America should police the world."