What is it about mankind that makes them squeamish about the truth? What causes people to run and hide when they feel that a finger may be pointed at them, when they feel that truth may cause them to move out of their comfort zone and into the world of black and white, where things are either good or evil? One of the disturbing characteristics of postmodern thought is that it has even invaded the church. Before the postmodern era, church doctrine was fairly straightforward. Christians held fast to certain doctrines, such as the virgin birth, the Triune God, Hell, Salvation, Sanctification, Justification, and any other “ication” you can think of. Good was good, evil was evil, and there was no real middle ground.
Unfortunately, with the advent of postmodernism, the reality of absolute truth has given way to a muddled pool of “maybe,” where “there is no absolute truth.” The implications for society as a whole are clear: No absolutes means no accountability, because morality is relative. Unfortunately, it also has implications for the church. How? Glad you asked.
A coworker and I were talking about churches today when he informed me that his congregation of over 2,000 members typically dwindles when hard truth (tithing, hell, church discipline) are the topics of discussion. If it was only my friend’s church that had this problem, that would be okay. Instead, the problem is rampant throughout Christendom. Many believers partake of “Christianity Lite,” a veritable smorgasboard of beliefs and doctrines, where you simply pull together whatever doctrines please you, wrap them all together, then smack a church bumper sticker in your back window of your car. Garnish with whatever great books that offer no truth, just fluff (I’m thinking Brian McLaren here) then go about your daily affairs with no concerns for the LORD whatsoever.
Many believers tend to rationalize and toss out whatever beliefs hit them as too difficult. Hell? NO, Hell is for the unenlightened who believe in a God who is mean and petty and dishes out eternal judgment. Morality? NO, morality is relative. What’s true for you is not true for me! Have you heard this before? Chances are, you have, and if you haven’t then you will. The effect this has on church is staggering- Believers that leave their bibles at home, Christians who dress for church as though they were attending a nightclub, empty tithe plates that pass by young, wealthy individuals who are at church to see and be seen. Would that they came to see God and be seen by the Eternal One!
How does the church cope with this staggering problem? Many times, the church compromises, offering a watered-down version of Christianity to bring in seekers as well as keep the masses unoffended. Sermons become 30 minutes of feeling good, preceeded by some worship songs that dote on the singer almost as much as they glorify the unchanging LORD of the universe. Holiness is then second to coolness and inoffensiveness, as the church moves to ingratiate itself more with the world, to the point where the world looks scarcely different from the church. This is not just a problem for a few churches. This is a problem rampant in Christianity. How do we find that sweet spot of offering the Grace of the Gospel and the Truth of the Word all 100% at the same time?
For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:34-41, ESV)
I don’t think Peter knew much about the whole “Seeker-Sensitive” movement. I also don’t think he was concerned about looking stupid in front of “Postmodern” listeners. The amazing thing is the last line of that passage. Three THOUSAND souls were saved. It wasn’t by giving people what they wanted. Peter gave them what they needed: the utter, naked truth. They were sinners. They participated in the death of the glorious Son of Man.
The church needs some straight talk to add to the great worship music and the fabulous comfy auditoriums. The church needs grit, truth, and spine as well as grace. The dividing line has been pushed further back by postmodern society. It is time for the church to push back and find the balance between grace and truth.