Tuesday, January 11, 2005

For Christians, a bad report card with rays of hope

Books & Culture, respected and scholarly conservative Christian periodical, has a scathing report about contemporary Christians. The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, subtitled Why don't Christians live what they preach? by Ronald J. Sider, opens with words meant to grab your attention.

Scandalous behavior is rapidly destroying American Christianity. By their daily activity, most "Christians" regularly commit treason. With their mouths they claim that Jesus is Lord, but with their actions they demonstrate allegiance to money, sex, and self-fulfillment.

There follows a litany of morose statistics about the contradictions between words and behavior on the part of contemporary Christians. Any prophet from the Old Testament would be impressed with this documentation of misbehavior on the part of God's children. The reader wonders when or whether it will ever end. I'm exhausted just remembering it all...

But at the end there are signs of hope. " Enormously wealthy, and proud of it, we think that most things are going well in spite of our blatant disobedience. But our Lord's word to us is simple: Repent!"

Biblical repentance is more than a brief liturgical phrase or a hasty superficial tear. It is a deep, heartfelt sorrow for offending the Holy Sovereign of the universe and a strong inner resolve to embrace the conversion - the complete reversal of direction - that our forgiving Savior longs to bestow. We cannot manufacture this radical change using our own strength. But we can beg our Holy God not only to forgive but also to change us. Daily, we can pray to the Lord to transform us more and more into the very likeness of Jesus.

The good news is that the small circle of people with a biblical worldview demonstrate genuinely different behavior. They are nine times more likely than all the others to avoid "adult-only" material on the Internet. They are four times more likely than other Christians to boycott objectionable companies and products and twice as likely to choose intentionally not to watch a movie specifically because of its bad content. They are ...more likely than other adults not to use tobacco products...volunteer time to help needy people.... more than an hour in the previous week to an organization serving the poor...

That "biblical world view" is not by any means a widespread phenomenon. [E]ven though 91 percent of all born-again Christians lacked a biblical worldview, they were nonetheless open, even desirous, of spiritual growth. The point seems to be that the different behavior of Christians with a biblical worldview underline the importance of theology. Biblical orthodoxy does matter. One important way to end the scandal of contemporary Christian behavior is to work and pray fervently for the growth of orthodox theological belief in our churches.

This review comes linked from a nakedly secular source, Arts & Letters Daily. They don't use permalinks, but at this writing the link is under "Essays and Opinions", fourth item down. I don't know if this is a comment on the source of the link or the content of the piece.

1 comment:

Anselm said...

I'm always a little skeptical about these things. Sin is bad, absolutely, but frequently those who shout loudest about purifying Christianity have even worse problems of their own. I need to get the book, haven't read it. The pharasees were very against sin, and strove to live righteouss lives ( by their definition) as opposed to the woman caught in adultery: Who is condemned? The greatest commandment is about love, and from it the obedience needs to flow, but oh how many believers have I seen, who like the pharasees live apparently moral lives, but are judgemental and joyless.