Today's Christian churches are filled with a vast amount of meetings, programs, retreats, and get togethers. There are many opportunities to get in touch with your emotions and fellowship, but little chance to use your mind. So there's this strange thing that happens when you are in a Christian church and you want to think, Christianly...you find yourself very alone.
The modern Christian faith has been reduced to emotionalism and blind faith and has offered little depth to the faithful. Those that dive into the deep waters of theology and philosophy and pose valid questions will be met with blank faces, or more frequently, exclusion.
Harry Blamires, in his book, "The Christian Mind" looks at the growing lack of Christian thinking in the church in the mid 1960's. Some of his book is prophetic to our current situations.
"The duty of common worship ( has been) urged with all the force of episcopal authority. With the same authority the significance of doctrinal teaching was depreciated. There is no longer a Christian mind (just) a Christian ethic."
Blamires argues that the majority of Christians look at life from a secular view point and that modern Christianity has turned into a silly self help program.
Even after watching the film, "Blue Like Jazz" yesterday with a friend, the author, Don Miller creates a dialogue, but offers no solid Truth. In the film, the Christian experience is the mystical, emotional, seeking, on-going dialogue, but no concrete answers are provided as if the search is the end and cannot fully be known. If you do not go to the film thinking Christianly, you will, like Miller, think secularly about Christian things.
I am in no way saying we shouldn't pose simple or difficult questions, we must. "Honest questions need honest answers." But we must approach questions using the Logos as our base, and nature, the book of man, and our experiences as secondary even tertiary measurements. And we must offer the solutions that God gives, whether popular or not.
Blamires, like Francis Shaeffer did in the 70's, makes the argument that before long the 'thinking Christian' will not feel welcomed in modern Christian circles as concrete truth is seen as intolerance and local church cultural behavior is elevated as dogma.
"The [Christian thinker] that wishes to experience this loneliness should try the following experiment. Take some topic of current political importance. Try to establish in your own mind what is the right policy to recommend in relation to it, and do so in total detachment from any political alignment or prejudice; form your own conclusion by thinking Christianly (Biblical). Then discuss the matter with fellow members of your congregation. The full loneliness of thinking Christian will descend upon you."
I tried his experiment, and I was desperately alone. It is tough to be surrounded by people that want to talk about their circumstances, cloaked as prayer time, instead of spending serious time in study of the Logos, worldviews, theology and the applications of these in daily life.
Most Bible study is left to Pulpit in our churches, Protestant and Catholic, but is rot with personal tales, antidote humor and self help with three step simplicity. In reference to our current teaching and preaching styles Blamires writes, "...genuine value judgments are discounted. Enthusiasm, volubility, liveliness, and amusingness are the desired qualities."
I am pleased to have some pastor friends that are forsaking the drama, for solid, good expository teaching sans the light - camera - action - feel good.
Our lack of thinking has connected us less with our community and purpose, and more with our leaders. You'll hear all the time, "We love the way our pastor preaches." This seeking a church because of the pastor, or reading a book because of the writer creates a loyalty to them, or their brand. It's less about what they say, and more about how they say it and whether it moves us. After all, many Christians today let the pastor do the thinking for them.
"I do this out of loyalty to my leader' is irrational and amoral unless it is a consequent upon my leaders character, or purpose, or policy." Loyalty to a pastor or leader for the sake of loyalty is evil and slavish and it has silenced many a good thinker in Bible study, committee meetings and even kept people silent in their pew when there have been great needs for righteous rebellion.
Thinking Christianly as a para-church board member can put one, 'on the outs'. As board members discuss more ways to raise funds and create more activity, they divest themselves of the Christian callings of developing disciples and teaching those that have already come to faith. Thinking Christianly is replaced with secular thinking of serving those who are supporters, but failing to care for those that were converted. I can tell you this approach is unfortunately alive and thriving.
Further, we see the Christian faith as a tool for making people better. This is a good result of the faith, but it is far from the primary purpose. We spend so much time telling people the extra 'don'ts' we've created apart from scripture because we want to make them well behaved people in our congregation and society. The emphasis then becomes making people Christians simply because it makes them better people.
Blamires writes, "There is no subtler perversion of the Christian faith than to treat it as a mere means to a worldly end, however admirable that end may be in itself. What a mean blasphemy it would be, to go through magnificent acts of worship always with the dominant intention at the back of the mind - This is really going to make a better chap of me!"
Youth today are left with little doctrine to hang their faith on, because youth pastors are busy making them feel bad about their behavior, but offering no content as to the larger - greater Christian life.
Our faith is built on so much more than just a moral code; Ours is a religion of acts and facts.
Not only does the Christian thinker find themselves at odds in their own church buildings and para-church organizations, but of course, in the world as well.
A secularist has a great disdain for a Christian thinker that sees scripture as revelation from God and relevant to all of life. Faith in a risen man and a written word from God will get you mocked by secular intelligentsia. Yet they put faith in the writings and morals of dead men gone before them and call them truths.
To think Christianly about society, science, art and beyond always puts my secular friends at odds with me. I'm ok with the dialogue, and I often find it much more pleasant than dialogue with other believers. But as Blamires states, "What the secular mind is ill-equipped to grasp is that the Christian faith leaves a Christian with no choice at all on many matters."
If it is concerning, abortion, homosexuality, labor, politics and a long list of other topics, I as a believer in the Bible as the Word of God am left with no ability to impose my wishes on God and must submit to His opinion. His words about these issues are clear and I accept them as Truth and as what is best for man.
Don't get mad at me if you don't like my position, take it up with God, I'm just following what He said.
"Reason allows no place for a casual one-man-to-another approach to God and his demands. It is either the bowed head or the turned back."
But then, in our day and age, the idea of submission to authority is against current individualism and self sufficiency. The secularist, as well as the modern Christian are now focused on the mastery of all things, and a way to make the world fit what makes us feel comfortable and good about ourselves. Relativism rules.
In the world and the church, "The Christian mind has been so enfeebled by disuse that those who strive to put it into working order again feel like pioneers in a strange and virgin world."
Thinking Christianly means we must: have a clear defined truth of which we are well acquainted, submit to God's complete authority, be supernaturally oriented, define and be aware of that which is evil, and have a great concern for people.
Their appears to be more concern with the size of a church or evangelical event, but there seems to be little concern for individual people. This must change.
"Thus the Christian conception of the human person is a high one, his sense of the sacredness of human personality being deeply grounded in revealed theological truth."
In churchdom we speak of grandiose projects of reaching mass groups of people. This is short sighted. We have taught Christians that the big programs, projects and mission trips are where to put your energy, forsaking the long term investment in the life of a neighbor, co-worker, friend, or the even more important investment in a spouse and child.
Men talk like there is some better way of spreading the Gospel than the slow personal process by which the pastor, priest or layman brings the church's witness to bear upon one individual with an investment of love, care, witness and time.
Forget your grand evangelical mass conversion talk fellow Christians. Look at the person God has placed in the cubicle next to you. Think Christianly about them and act Christianly to them.
My mom lead me to Christ. My father introduce me to the outdoors. Don Staton taught me how to be a good husband to my wife. Al Boenker taught me what matters in business. Richard Sammons opened me to traveling the world. Darrin Kirby encouraged my spiritual life. David Bertch taught me discipleship. Danae Owens challenges me daily. Christians thinking Christianly, that value persons, is what changes the world.
We must challenge the Christians in our lives to think and act. We must encounter the non-Christian with God's love AND his Truth. We must look at the world and our faith and think on both Christianly.
We must not let secular thought and ethics dictate our path.