Is There Not a Cause?

A cry of confession…

A plea for forgiveness…

A call to repentance…

…for myself and my Christian brothers and sisters in the West:

• By drifting into self-absorbed, post-modern subjectivity and relativism, we ignore the liberating blessing and power of God’s transcendent and objective truth, goodness and beauty for all of life and culture.

“All authority in heaven and on earth …” ~ Jesus

• By neglecting the historic doctrines of the faith to embrace the attitudes of our day and the latest theological fads, we proclaim a disjointed and shallow “gospel” that lacks answers to the great issues of our age.

• By promoting a narcissistic “me”-focused faith, we forget that Jesus wants us to know Him not merely as savior, but also as sovereign creator, lawgiver, judge and provider.

• By seeking grace without truth, we no longer serve as salt and light to our neighbors, cultures and nations.

• By falling prey to Gnostic dualism, we fail to equip believers to be disciples who live out God’s precepts and authority in all spheres of human endeavor – including the “secular” and “material” world of our day-to-day existence – as our fellowships and churches instead focus, ad nauseum, on only so-called “spiritual” matters.

• By ignoring Biblical injunctions to renew our minds so we can be faithful stewards over all aspects of God’s creation, we’ve become trapped in intellectual lethargy.

• By embracing recent eschatologies of retreat, defeat and escape, we sit on the sidelines as God’s triumph over evil continues its progressive march through history and in other parts of the world.

Forgive us, Lord, for wanting only you and not also your Kingdom. Even so, we honor your name. May your Kingdom come as your will is done on earth, just as it is in heaven …

~ Jim

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Gnostic dualism is a system of belief that views, among other things, the temporal material world as inherently bad and only what is spiritual as inherently good. It thus tends to withdraw from any redemptive involvement with the “world” to focus only on what is “spiritual”.

The main theological battle of the first several centuries of church history was between Biblical Christianity and gnosticism. The core beliefs of gnosticism, however, can be seen in segments of the Church throughout history, including today.

10 responses

  1. Short, poignant, and hard hitting. Definitely a smart-bomb post. I have, on many fronts, been battling this not so new push towards gnosticism. I keep coming back to the renewing of my own mind and others telling me in not so many words that my mind is not being renewed according to how they think it should be renewed. Again, excellent post…

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    • Thanks. I originally wrote and posted this three years ago, back in 2009. I decided to dust it off, do a few edits, and re-post it – just in case anyone wrongly assumes this is directed at any one particular person or group! It is, as you point out, addressing a general malaise that’s gripped the Church in the West – organic and institutional. Without repentance, we risk God’s judgment.

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    • My experience grwiong up in a medium sized church in the US (approx 250) was that it was easy to just show up and leave without anyone really taking notice. I found the experience of attending a smaller church of about 100 in the UK very different. (I was there for three years.) While I had as much freedom to easily come and go, I definitely felt it was more noticed in the smaller church. I began to build relationships there which resulted in me staying longer, led to stronger friendships, discipleship, and eventually the realization that I hadn’t ever followed Jesus, even though I’d always thought I was a Christian. I observed a real community and deeper fellowship there in that smaller church that I hadn’t seen before. In hindsight I think it was a picture of how the church is described in Acts.In Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point he talks about the theory that 150 is a magic number where he describes a social phenomenon seen across multiple types of communities (schools, workplaces, etc). I’m paraphrasing but basically the idea is that approximately 150 persons is the maximum number of people whom we can interact with without feeling that we don’t know how we relate to them. When workplaces rise above that number they have observed productivity levels come to a plateau even while adding additional workers. The idea is that above that number, people begin to feel like numbers and don’t think that what they do really matters or makes a difference. I felt that the missional church video above was spot-on in describing church members who don’t think they need to personally prepare themselves to share the gospel, and instead think that bringing someone to church and leaving it up to the pastor is evangelism. I think there can be a real danger in a large church where members can begin to depend on the pastors and elders to do the job that I think we are each called to do.I don’t know if the model of a big attractional church really works I think the people inside the church probably think it’s an attractive model that works but I’m not sure that the people outside would think the same. As to being attractive , the apostle Paul talks about being all things to all men but logically one large church can’t be all things to all men, really it can only be a few key things to only a certain type of people. I think it’s the reason why there tends to be a dominant homogenous group in a church, plus a few attenders in fringe groups. In thinking about how we should do church, I find it very helpful to think about Jesus’ model of discipling only 12 men over the course of three years with the goal of sending them out to be disciple makers in their own right. I think we see the same model followed by Paul as he trains up other men to plant churches. I find it helpful to remember the cliche that God has no grandchildren. I would love to see churches begin to plant when they get too large I feel that this would encourage people who haven’t felt needed before to step up to the plate and reveal talents and gifts we haven’t seen before, or for previously dependent people to realize they too can be equipped to become leaders too. I also feel that large churches can make the mistake of depending on the strength of its people whereas perhaps small churches might by necessity be forced to depend on the One whose strength matters, to His glory!

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  2. I agree totally with what you are saying here. I wouldn’t site postmodernism as the chief worldview cause here (although it certainly isn’t innocent it this issue either). The total self absorption of the prosperity gospel (for example) was a modernist invention. Western culture in general and US culture in particular has been deeply materialistic and self absorbed long before postmodernism became the new self absorbed expression of Western culture. Postmodernism just takes it to a new level.

    Nevertheless, you are right. It is all about Jesus and what He wants, not about us and what Jesus can do for us. In Matt. 6:33 Jesus set the perspective straight. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. If we focus on Jesus and what He wants (his Kingdom) He’ll take care of us.

    I hear a lot of people talking about how much they love Jesus, how warm and wonderful He is but when one brings up the Kingdom and talks about moving out to save the lost and heal the broken they change the subject. For them it seems to lose attraction. And, Jim, I think you are correct, the reason is it ceases to be about them and what Jesus can do for them and becomes about something much bigger that isn’t focused on them at all. How can we say we love Jesus and not love what He wants?

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    • Ross, I very much agree that modern, “enlightenment” attitudes are just as big of a problem. In what we’re doing among our fellowships here in our neck of the woods, however, it is more the post-modern sensibilities of the surrounding Christian community that are thwarting the Gospel and the Kingdom. So I tend to focus more on those issues. But your are absolutely right.

      Thanks for the input.

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  3. Yeah, We really need to see the Jesus of the Bible and understand the complete narrative and plan that God is bringing into fruition. So often we worship a Jesus and a view of the Kingdom of our own making – rather than face and embrace the often uncomfortable reality that it is all about Him, His plans and purposes, the development of our character into His likeness …. and not “what is in it for me”.

    Jesus demonstrated obedience to the will of the Father in ALL things, if anyone had a right to do his own thing it was Jesus, However he subordinated His will to that of the Father so it is our duty to seek and then DO the will of the Father.

    Thus the church needs to be focused on the world outside the doors of some building they gather in – the gospel is good news to those who are perishing, and the hurting and broken need to see our love in practical demonstration – not just words but deeds.

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  4. Yes, there is a cause… it is called eternity, (eternal life) the very thing that Jesus promised we would have. The problem is with western christianity is that it is primarily geared to a ‘heavenly’ destination with no thought for God’s Kingdom or anything eternal…..and dare I say it, to actually live like Christ and become one with Him and the Father.

    The foundation of modern western christianity is wrong and needs to be replaced with the correct foundation. Where are the kingdom preachers like Peter, Paul, John the Baptist, Stephen…..and Jesus?

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  5. Been thinking about this for a few days, Jim. Sobering to analyze my own attitudes and what motivates me. But something important to do from time to time. Thanks for making me engage in important introspection.

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  6. The western mindset of church is all based on ‘what about me….what can I get out of it….what’s in it for me’? Jesus on the other hand came for others exclusively, and His invite is ti ‘Follow me’. So, it begs the question ‘Who are we following? Jesus Christ or man? The woman at the well had five husbands, one defacto relationship, and as Jesus said, one to come. The first husband was the assembly, fellowship in Palestine, the second husband was to the Greek philosophy, then another divorce and married again to the Roman Catholic institution, from there to Europe where it bacame a culture, from there to the new world (USA) where it became an enterprise (business). Now the church cannot even enter the Kingdom of God, so it is having a de facto relationship with the world, so much so, that it is almost impossible to tell where the church starts and ends. What’s in it for me is what the world says, come folloiw me is what Jesus says. Jesus is calling us to get out of the so called church and follow Him, to live like Him, to be one with Him. Otherwise when He returns, we will have no part in His Kingdom. Please read the scriptures, it is all there…..or like the Pharisees, will you refuse to come to Him for eternal life?

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