Michael Spencer discusses the danger of making the message of the gospel so acceptable to the world that they are able to appropriate and even affirm it while entirely missing the point.
I particularly like the proposed new verse of “I Can Only Imagine”. :-)
While Michael limits his discussion pretty much to
corrupt contemporary Christian music, I think it’s relevant to many of our attempts at influencing the culture or our notions of what it means to be salt and light.
For instance, some people kind of treat the Bible as a self-help book. The Bible contains lots of good instruction on how to manage your finances, handle conflict resolution, how to have a healthy marriage, how to raise your kids or get along with your parents, and so on. You can teach about the importance of guarding your tongue, controlling your tempter, and being self-disciplined. And this is one approach to spreading the gospel. Give people real practical sermons that meet their needs, then they will see that Christianity “works” and be open to the gospel.
At least, that’s the theory. But as you extract the topical sermons from the Biblical text, you can easily miss the theological and spiritual foundations. Christian teaching on marriage is explicitly and inseperably tied to Christ’s sacrificial, atoning death on the cross and to good ecclesiology. It can’t be fully understood aside from that, and Paul presents it in just such terms. Peter doesn’t just tell husbands to honor their wives, but to honor them “as heirs together of the grace of life”.
If you remove the theological underpinnings – or even if you don’t – the principles can be applied to an unbeliever’s life without a corresponding change of heart. Just like the lost can sing and love “I Can Only Imagine”. Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.
The gospel cannot be parceled up into bite-sized tasty bits to make it easier for people to digest. The goal of the gospel is not to produce good music, good books, good philosophy, happy people, good finances, strong marriages, or healthy interpersonal relationships, and we must not communicate it that way. The message of the gospel is believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. The pressing need to be met is resolving a spiritual enmity against God and the prospect of eternal damnation. Let’s meet that need; it’s the only one worth our time and energy and worthy of our call.
Any approach to evangelism or influencing the culture that is anything other than bringing people to repentance and faith in Christ is going to miss the mark.
(Link via Karl Thienes.)