Is That True?
I recently heard a pastor invite non-Christians to consider Christianity because ”Christianity will make your life better and make you better at life.” While it is certainly true that Christianity will make a person’s life better, is this the primary way to express the value of Christianity? It would seem that the thrust of this statement – the worth of Christianity is in its utility (“it works”) value is not only misleading, but exceptionally deceptive. Sure, Christianity makes sense of life, gives us a moral compass, makes families stronger, and a host of other life-benefits, but its real, core value is that it is true. When a person believes the value of Christianity is in its ability to enhance ones life, what about those times when “faith” doesn’t “work”? What about when life is a mess? What happens when a marriage pulls apart or kids go off the deep end in pursuit of the pleasures offered in this world? Where is the value of following Jesus when someone losses their job, or is in a car accident, or is diagnosed with cancer? Has “faith” failed when life gets hard?
The Core of Christianity
The real basis and worth of Biblical Christianity is: first, it is true and then, second, it works. The “progressive” message in many churches features the “it works” pragmatism over and above the “its true” propositionalism. When this inversion takes root, it forms a Devilish brew that makes “Christianity” merely another coping mechanism to get through life. Churches that engage (some unwittingly) in the utility-Gospel will often feature “life principles” on Sunday morning with the promise that life will get better if the congregant applies the lessons. The congregant is empowered to have a better life while the pastor functions as a type of self-help guru weaving stories in and through “truths” that will transform. Its no wonder why these type of churches feature larger-than-life pastors who take on an almost mythical status among congregants since only he has the insights that will make their lives work. It’s also why this type of “ministry” is immensely successful on TV and online viewership. Who doesn’t want to make sense of life? But what is the cost in believing that the value of Christianity is in its usefulness to a persons life?
The result of “It works” Christianity can be seen in the life of Aaron Rodgers. For Aaron, faith was beneficial when it was meaningful to him, but when “rules and regulations” along with “binary systems” that didn’t resonate with him surfaced, he walked away. When Aaron encountered the demands within the truth-claims of the gospel in the terms of right/wrong, saved/sinner, heaven/hell dynamic, then “Christianity” was rejected. Given that Aaron’s idea of “faith” was rooted in its usefulness, he simply pivoted by creating his own belief system, a series of beliefs that he is more comfortable with. Aaron has even formed an image of his own god – a pragmatic and useful being which shuns any type of standard or judgement. Aaron imagines an amorphous deity that seemingly lives for the happiness of humanity. Has Aaron has created a god in his own image?
Aaron Rodgers is a classic example of utility-based, “it works” Christianity. Aaron, like many Americans want meaningful experiences but not necessarily truth claims that seem to constrict life choices. In Aaron’s case he makes about 146K a minute as a quarterback for the Green Bay Packers so he doesn’t need to make sense of life because life is good. In short, religion lost its value when it didn’t “work” for him. In reality, Aaron didn’t walk away from Biblical Christianity, he just stopped following a false therapeutic belief that people call “the gospel” in America. I hope and pray that he comes to understand the message of Jesus and discovers a church that is Gospel-shaped.
Do you see how putting the utility value of “Christianity works” before the its truth-claims will foster a Devilish delusion that will lead to false converts and self-styled guru pastors? Christianity is primarily a truth-claim and secondarily a belief system that works. The truth is that there is a God as described in the Bible, that humans are all rebels against our Creator and will face His wrath unless we turn from our self-sufficiency and trust in the sin-bearer – Jesus, who graciously took the wrath of God in our place. It is these claims of truth that apply to Aaron (and all of us) and when believed will help make sense of all of life. The “workability” of faith comes AFTER the TRUTHFULNESS of what the Bible claims to be true. To invert both or devalue the one over the other is to confuse people as to what Christianity IS vs. what following Christ will supernaturally produce. Keep on the lookout for pastors who push the mere pragmatic side of Christianity. Refuse to pander or promote the primacy of utility in religion/spirituality and embrace the truthfulness of religion/spirituality. When we champion the truth of the Biblical Gospel the “workability” of Christianity will become obvious.