Nominal Christianity – Part 3
Nominal Christianity provides its own protections—and it is not without its tremendous advantages.
In this system, speaking critically is frowned upon. For a person to question salvation, or—worse!—question leadership, is to question the substance of faith itself, and may create a rupture in the space-time continuum. It is forbidden! It is that of which we do not speak!
I have met very few people who have been willing to bring their own salvation in the manner of my previous post into question. Nearly everyone I know who has “gone forward” for that magical prayer has been a bigger supporter of the perseverance of the saints than die-hard Calvinists (for even they should be cautious not to have an arrogant confidence in a faith they know is not their own!).
This strikes at the core, I believe. Why is it that so many modern evangelicals are unwilling to follow the simple (and biblical) command to examine themselves? But that’s where the internal protection kicks in. In this system, criticism is frowned upon, but not nearly as much as dogmatic assertions. And therein lies the catch twenty-two.
You see, if we cannot have any true assertions, the bible becomes a book of literary devices to be used in sermon illustrations, and has little-to-no value to the life of the nominal Christian. Each Old Testament story becomes an allegory for our life (or the lives of our leaders). David and Goliath wasn’t about a man ordained to be king, part of the redemptive plan of God as an ancestor of the Savior, but is really just another dude whose life we can mimic by “slaying” the giants in our lives (err… or something like that). I’ve even heard sermons that would dare to take the harrowing events at the end of Christ’s life and attempt to make them a metaphor for our struggles with feeling inadequate or lacking self-esteem. This is atrocious to me now, but I distinctly remember eating it up in my decade-plus of nominal Christianity.
Why? Because it’s easier to believe that we don’t really need to know our history and theology. It’s easier to accept multiple interpretations because “no one could possibly have it all correct”. It’s easier to accept that my constant (and growing) problem with pornography, promiscuity, drugs, alcohol, or anger is a result of a loss of focus or a slip from perfection (oh, which I’ll never attain anyway).
I heard it once said, “I can keep on sinning because He keeps on forgiving!” This appears to be the motto of most of us when we are trapped in nominal Christianity. Every sin becomes a sacrifice on the altar of grace: “Look how much God forgives me—I was in a secret, adulterous relationship for over 8 years and yet I’ve been redeemed and forgiven!”
Don’t hear me wrong: I do believe God forgives His children. But you must ask yourself: ARE you actually one of His children? Or are you just playing a game, and using bibley-sounding words to justify your sin? Once again, we cannot escape the mandate of examining ourselves!
But that’s not the only type of nominal Christian out there. There are also those whose lives do not exemplify the licentiousness described above. Generally, these are morally good people. But this alone does not qualify a man or woman as a Christian—it does not pass the tests provided in 2 Corinthians 13:5 or 1 John 2. It doesn’t answer the arguments Paul answered in Romans. We must ask ourselves: have I loved the Lord my God with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength every minute of every day? If we answer this with anything besides, “No,” we are a liar. If we realize that we fail to do this, and we regret it, mortify it, and run to the cross knowing that it answers this dilemma, we are in a much better place!
I will share with you that I never felt this way. Quite the opposite, actually. I was convinced, since I only basically knew the “Big Ten”, that I had been obedient to them all. It never occurred to me to take Jesus’ words so seriously (that anger or hatred is the same as murder, or that lust is the same as adultery and so forth). And that’s the system kicking in again: without dogma—without any assertions about what the bible really does say about our sin, it’s very easy to ignore it all and live a life convinced of an ultimate destination of heaven while, in fact, we are closer to hell than we ever imagined.