Updated: Jun 21
"CHRISTIAN ETHOS?" - Part 1
I can remember, from about 30 years ago (1993), there was a murmur going around Church circles that the Bible should not be taught as a set of rules, a set of “Dos and Don’ts”. In some quiet way, I believe, a demand was rising for a “Happier Gospel”.
I can tell you without any reservation that the evidence is now plain for all to see, and the verdict is in. We, the Church, are now striving to appear happier and if that means ‘satisfying our flesh’, then so be it. And this is reflected in our worship, prayer and service to God and each other.
Perhaps without deliberate intentions, we have become a ‘me first’ religious group. When the preacher fails to satisfy, we criticize. When the music fails to create endorphins, dopamine or adrenaline, we criticize. When other Christians get in the way of what we want, we push them away – and criticize.
Altar calls are all but a thing of the past. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Some churches still have altar calls, but not like it used to be. It used to be that an altar call was a call to confession and repentance, a call to reconciliation, or a call to seek God and His wisdom on matters of life. Very few people, in most mainline religious denominations nowadays, (2023), even respond to an altar call in order to seek forgiveness, repentance of their sins, offer God a broken and contrite heart – they just want to be made happier. So, if and when they respond, it is to pray for material things, about their feelings, about things they want and things to be made easier and better for them. (Just think about it).
EXAMPLES OF THIS DRIFT?
(1). I was on staff at a Nazarene church, and after preaching one Sunday, I gave an ‘altar call’, inviting people to repent of their sins or to come to Christ for the first time, find forgiveness from God and to be saved. One or two people came forward to confess and repent. It wasn’t until after the service and for the next week, did people come to me in private and say they really wanted to come to the altar but were afraid or reluctant that others would see them and suspect the worst of them. Most of these were sincerely regretful they missed the opportunity.
On the other hand, the lead ‘pastor’ of the church was incensed and threatened me to be sidelined from ever preaching in ‘his church’ again, if I ever ‘did anything like that again’. He plainly discouraged such repentance of sin, saying that it is a negative message, and that “God loves you so much that He cannot love you any less”. He scolded me saying, “that kind of preaching or talk only makes people feel bad about themselves, and I won’t have it”. (I believe was a cover for his own sinful life, which was uncovered at a later date.)
(2). On another occasion I confronted a Church of God pastor who was a good friend, about the behavior of one of his pastor-friends’ behavior, who was being deceitful – cheating and lying. My friend told me that because of what Jesus has done on Calvary’s cross, no born again Christian can sin (any longer). So, whatever his pastor-friend did was covered in Jesus Blood and ‘erased’. I explained that this was a continuing practice with this man, but my friend insisted that neither he nor that man could sin in God’s Eyes – a horrid twisting of God’s grace into a license to sin, in my opinion.
(3). On yet another occasion, I was an active member of a Pentecostal church where the pastor and his hand-picked leadership would obfuscate church financial accounting, apparently fearing objections to how the money was being spent, defending such thinking as necessary for church effectiveness. Although I held a leadership position in this church, had preached from this pulpit several times, and had been repeatedly asked to be on the church board (which I declined, each time), and that I was considered as a friend to this pastor, I was omitted from knowing details of the church financial dealings – specifically regarding this pastor’s and his families’ church salaries.
(4). Finally, I had been a member of a three different Southern Baptist churches the first twenty years of my Christian life. The last five years with that denomination I acted as an evangelist, an itinerant preacher and finally was ordained by a nearby Baptist church as an associate pastor. I and had always considered our ‘faith and practice’ in as Southern Baptists as solidly Biblical. Nowadays, however, I have seen strong indications of a growing proclivity toward unbiblical practices and behaviors and a spreading type of ‘hyper-grace’ in and among Southern Baptists churches designed to simply attract members.
This is however, now a visible movement within the Southern Baptist denomination actively working to counter and correct the growing problem of what has been aptly named “Theoretical Inerrancy”.
(Theoretical Inerrancy is explained as when theologically reformed believers, such as Southern Baptist leaders and pastors in this case, affirm Biblical inerrancy in theory but not in practice. That is, they will make the affirmation, sign the Baptist Faith and Message, Abstract of Principles, or Chicago Statement on Inerrancy without hesitation or mental reservation and then will go right on thinking and living in ways that are contrary to the Word. They are theoretical inerrantists.
What does this mean? It means that the spirit of the evangelical, inerrantist age in which we live is increasingly characterized by a satisfaction of verbal affirmations and signatures on documents rather than by lives lived in humble submission and conformity to Scripture. (see a full explanation at Founders Ministries – Theoretical Inerrantists).
(In the south, where I have lived, there is a saying that goes, “They talk a good game, but they ain’t walkin’ it”.)
All four of the examples I have cited, I believe, come from the same root cause: Professing Christians have come to love the world and the things in it. The danger presented here is that we have been warned that if one “loves the world or the things in the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
(We have been warned that this day was coming. Read in 2 Timothy 3:1, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3. heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4. treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5. having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7. always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth". And, this behavior is now commonplace in the Church among professing Christians.)
1 Corinthians 15:33 warns us that “bad company corrupts good morals” and this seems to be a growing phenomenon in many, if not all, of our mainline churches. The apparent result is that there is a loss of the Biblical Christian Ethos (Ethics) such as see taught by and demonstrated in the life of Jesus, and in the lives of the Apostles and the early church.
(Although sin has always been present, the Bible tells us, “If you do well [believing Me and doing what is acceptable and pleasing to Me], will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well [but ignore My instruction], sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you [to overpower you], but you must master it.”
Besides the apparent danger of this spiritual drift within the church, is the importance of arresting this malaise, in that "As goes the Church, so goes the nation and the world".
(I cannot help but wonder if this spreading spiritual cancer within the church is a sign of the prophesied ‘Great Apostasy’, that is, the great falling away from the faith. a hallmark of the 5th Tribulation Seal has begun? (See Matthew 24:9-12 and Revelation 6:9) Or is the Church in America just back-sliding into sin, and caving in to the desires of a demanding and sinful world, as spoken of in 2 Timothy – or is it both? Either way, Christian Ethics are certainly not being taught as they once were, nor preached or lived out in many of our postmodern churches.)
Your Brother and Friend,
PS: This article and this ongoing series is a Word from God for me. I am but a sinner, saved by God's grace and great mercy.
Furthermore, this article and series is far above my ability. There are many good books you can read which define "Christian Ethos" and "Christian Ethics". It is not my intention to write an essay on Ethics. My intention is to 'blow the Shofar', so to speak. This is meant to sound the alarm, to awaken a few, and to call us, as professing Christians, back to the roots of our faith and practice.
I realize this will be 'tough reading' and probably not very popular as many of us may have to look into our own spiritual mirrors, and some of us will have to admit that we don't like what we see. (This is hard for me, too.) But rejecting this out-of-hand could be a mistake.
At any rate, please accept this as it is intended: Not a judgment but as a call to holiness and a return to His righteousness.