“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Christian Life - Part VIII - The Cult of Moralism

This will probably be my final post in this area -- I am sure there are many things I have missed, but I have some other things percolating -- I may revisit this again.

One of my thoughts is that I could address how we combat these things infiltrating our churches. While I have made some basic suggestions, I think there are some that could use an in-depth discussion.

So, what do I consider the Cult of Moralism to be? It is the cult that considers the 'job' of the church to be making 'better' people. Now, at first blush, this seems to be a good thing; I agree that it is a good thing, but it is not the 'best' thing. Christ did not die on the cross to make 'better' people, but to redeem a people! This is a big difference!

This cult is recognizable by their heavily moralistic sermons -- i.e. "How to Be a Better Husband, Father, Sibling, Golfer", or the ubiquitious "How to Get More/All Out of Life, Your Job, Your Marriage, Your Hobby", or finally "How to Lose Weight, Learn to Balance Your Checkbook, Cook Low-Carb", etc. etc. etc.

Now, is there anything wrong with these topics? Not at all -- they just do not happen to have anything to do with the Gospel! And what I find fascinating is that the very churches who make claims that they are 'reaching' so many people are the very ones who are most prone to this cult! Now, if a church is truly reaching the lost, but only providing them with the aforementioned sermons, how is it exactly that they are reaching the lost? Will being a better parent provide salvation? Will being able to cook Atkins-style meals actually provide some value in the hereafter? I think not!

We have come to a place where the church has the mistaken mentality that somehow making people better is making them Christians! This is bad on many fronts, but let me simply address one area -- MAKING PEOPLE BETTER IS NOT THE GOSPEL!.

I would like to say that if making people 'moral' was the key to salvation, then we should remove Matthew 23, where Jesus gives seven woes to the Pharisees; these were very 'moral' people -- why did He have a problem with them? What about the 'rich young ruler' who claims that he did all of the commandements since his youth [Mark 10:17ff]? Is it true that if the young man had simply sold his stuff then he would have been moral enough to inherit heaven?

Now, don't get me wrong -- Christians SHOULD be moral people -- however, this is not the Gospel. If we want to truly impact our society, we need to preach the Gospel, people need to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and once they are a new creation they begin a lifelong process of sanctification by the life-changing impact of the Holy Spirit.

Why do I have a beef with the moralistic sermon [preached exculsively, in lieu of the Gospel]? Because this is the type of thing that may convince someone that they are a Christian, simply because they are a good father, or go to church and they have earned how to be 'moral'. These are things that you can learn from ANY religion, or, for that matter, from watching Oprah, or Dr. Phil!

We [the church] are to be in the business of proclaiming the Gospel, teaching people to obey the commands of Jesus Christ and living in fellowship with other believers. While it is entirely appropriate to preach moralistic messages when exegeting a text, it is entirely wrong-headed to make that the exclusive diet of the flock!

Good people do not go to Heaven -- Redeemed people do! And if there is no one preaching the Gospel we are doing a grave injustice to many, many people sitting in our churches week after week.

Let me leave you with this quote from Paul -- Romans 10:13, 14 -- For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

While teaching people how to be moral might bring numbers into your church, and quite frankly is easier, and safer, than preaching the Gospel, it is no substitute for preaching that directs people to call upon the name of the Lord -- As Paul asks -- How else shall they be saved?


Even So... said...

This one is ubiquitous...

Ray said...

Yep... Sadly...