I am currently reading Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church. I only wish I had read such a good book a couple of years earlier. It pulls no punches and zaps like that tonic that the doctor ordered with a wink – and twinkle in his eye. No, it’s not racy and nor does it tickle your ego.
Michael Horton tells of the time when he had an opportunity to interview Dr. Robert Schuller (a self help author and televangelist) who always favoured a ‘human needs approach’ to Christianity insisted that “classical theology has erred in its insistence that theology be ‘God centered,’ not ‘man centered’.” He defined sin as ‘any act or thought that robs,us or another human being of his or her self esteem…[infact says Schuller] a person is in hell when he has lost his self esteem.’
It is easy to see how Dr Schuller’s Christianized gospel lite became very popular and acceptable even among Muslims, Hindus and Atheists. After all who doesn’t like their ego tickled?
But what does the bible actually say? When asked to interpret the portion of scripture below, Dr Schuller’s response was a classic reply that many popular pastors give:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 2 Tim 3:1-5
Schuller immediately responded by saying, ‘I hope you don’t preach that. It will hurt a lot of beautiful people.’
Well, oh yes, Robert! But isn’t that exactly what preaching of the truth should do?
It crushes your ego and lifts off your self righteous veil to expose your nakedness before a Holy God. But if we only preach a Christ who saves us from low self esteem or comes to boost our egos then we are preaching another gospel.
Do Christians preach about sin any more in these big vibrant mega churches any more? Do they talk about man’s fall and inability to redeem himself by good works? Whatever happened to the doctrine of man’s depravity and total inability?
Our challenge as Christians (or rather Bible believing Christians) is to relentlessly remain reveted to the Word of God and it’s doctrines. We must teach them to our children and understand these doctrines so as not to be lured into man made schemes. More than ever look to the gospel and the good news it brings to wretched sinners that we are. Did Jesus come to die on the cross to boost our ego? St. Anselm once lamented to those who thought that Christ’s death was not a vicarious substitution or atonement: ‘You have not yet considered how great your sin is’.
Vicarious atonement…those are good words to end on today (and they will not hurt but heal a lot of people).