In the first chapter of his new book Christless Christianity, Dr. Michael Horton offers the conclusion that
those who are raised in â€œBible-believingâ€ churches know as little of the Bibleâ€™s actual content as their unchurched neighbors. Christ is ubiquitous in this subculture, but more as an adjective (Christian) than as a proper name. While we swim in a sea of â€œChristianâ€ things, Christ is increasingly reduced to a mascot or symbol of a subculture and the industries that feed it. Just as you donâ€™t really need Jesus Christ in order to have T-shirts and coffee mugs, it is unclear to me why he is necessary for most of the things I hear a lot of pastors and Christians talking about in church these days.
He argues further that it “is not that evangelicalism is becoming theologically liberal but that it is becoming theologically vacuous.” Empty. Gospel-less. Christless.
Not that we do not hear the name of Christ mentioned in churches. “Jesus has been dressed up as a corporate CEO, life coach, culture-warrior, political revolutionary, philosopher, copilot, cosufferer, moral example, and partner in fulfilling our personal and social dreams,” but very rarely as the crucified and resurrected Redeemer of a powerless people dead in sin.
Throughout the book, Horton offers evidences of this “Christlessness” in the churches. I have read only the sample Chapter 1, but evidences abound by just reading current religion news:
- Two Christian organizations have compiled a “Naughty and Nice” list based on how “Christmas-friendly” retailers are, encouraging Christians to shop at “nice” retailers that honor Christmas and shun “naughty” companies that don’t. This is what Horton refers to as Christians’ schizoprenia in “annually decrying the commercialization of Christmas by the culture while we assume a consumer-product-sales approach in our own churches every week.” I suppose as well that Christians must investigate if anyone involved in the layout, printing, distribution, mailing and selling of Rick Warren’s latest moneymaker, The Purpose of Christmas, is “naughty.”
- Christless prosperity gospel: “He wants you to live this abundant life.” “God has planted seeds of greatness in you. You have everything you need to fulfill your God-given destinyâ€¦ Itâ€™s all in you. You are full of potential.” “Have a good attitude, expect good things” (from a recent message by Joel Osteen).
- The pastor of a Dallas, Texas megachurch preached a charge to his married congregants to have sex for seven days in a row. Earlier this year, a Florida pastor preached an even bigger challenge to his flock, 30 days in a row.
- Churches across America were recognized for their excellence in facilities design, operation, use, and audio-visual production at the recently held Worship Facilities Conference & Expo (WFX) in Houston.
- Touted as one of the fastest-growing churches in America in 2004, Without Walls International Church is on the verge of not only losing its walls, but its floors, pews, roof, and property title. A bank has filed foreclosure proceedings against the church for defaulting on a $1 million loan. At its peak before the divorce of their pastors, Randy & Paula White, and financial scandals, the prosperity gospel church raked in $40 million a year.
- God didn’t cause this and God [was not] going to stop it, because God has granted us free will, and therefore God has to suffer the consequences of this like we do
- Prince Charles is planning – when he becomes King of England – to change his title as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England from “Defender of the Faith” to “Defender of Faith” to reflect Britain’s multicultural society. Earlier, his plan to change the title to “Defender of the Faiths” caused a controversy. The prince and the Archbishop of Canterbury obviously agree that the object of the Christian faith is not necessarily Christ, but anyone, anything, or even nothing.
- My son had a wedding rehearsal the day before his big day. But “Heaven’s Rehearsal” wants “to hold a rehearsal for Christ’s bride in preparation for the day whenÂ we will all stand as one before God.” I wonder who they have acting as “the one seated on the throne,” the 24 elders,” and the Lamb “with seven horns and with seven eyes.”
- The New Monastic Movement, has a vision to imitate medieval monks in their vow of poverty by becoming “true followers of Christ by living simply and as unselfishly as possible.” Debunking the biblical view of the church as a minister-led community “devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers,” one follower says, “Church is not something we attend. It’s something we are.”
It’s a dizzying world of mindless, Christless Christianity out there.