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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Becoming Good Fruit

Written by: on March 22, 2018

“Finally, in this America the Christian view that God desires justice but that it’s wrong to expect utopia in this lifetime has given way to a more optimistic vision, in which the spread of democracy is part of the divine plan, the doctrine of American exceptionalism is a kind of Eleventh Commandment, and political leaders are expected to achieve an approximation of heaven here on earth. The results: an overreaching foreign policy under both Republicans and Democrats, a domestic government that tries to be all things to all people no matter which party is in power, and a polarized mood in which the two political coalitions oscillate between messianic delusions and apocalyptic fears depending on whether or not they control the levers of government.”[1]

Ross Douthat’s book, Bad Religion is a myriad of debates waiting to happen; not only does he address nearly everything from an American perspective, but he also challenges the very fabric of modern day American Christianity. Perhaps that is at least the two main things that I found intriguing about this particular work. I have found that I too struggle with our modern day impression of “Christianity” in America and it is accommodations, revisions, and modern day justifications from what seems to be my antiquated view of the Bible. And yet, based on Randall Balmer’s review of Douthat, he sees it to the contrary: “I’m not sure that the enervation of religion as institution since the 1950s is entirely a bad thing; institutions, in my experience, are remarkably poor vessels for piety. An alternative reading of the liberal “accommodation” Douthat so reviles is that they have enough confidence in the relevance and integrity of the faith to confront, however imperfectly, such fraught issues as women’s ordination and homosexuality rather than allow them to fester as they have for centuries.[2]

Though there was much for me to agree with, as the staunch conservative and obvious biblical traditionalist that I admit to be, I also struggled with Douthat’s uniting of the faiths mentality that he seems to promote. I have seen more combat between church organizations over just my 46 years than I have ever seen with the outside world; in fact, I believe that to be the greatest obstacle in evangelism today. As Mike keeps addressing, the spiritual battle is all around us, including within the church itself and the doctrines that are being taught there. Our internal battles between various faith-based church groups, has placed a foul taste in the mouths of unbelievers, and this has presented a stumbling block for spreading the gospel. “For every tree is known by its own fruit.[3]” Our homogenized, self-serve, have-it-your-way religion has become a fallen rotting fruit on the ground of America that is no one cares to pick up.

“Nearly all of the “new concepts” of God considered in the article had a big idea in common: the notion that henceforward Christianity could flourish only by transforming itself into a more secular enterprise, dedicated to building the kingdom of God in this life rather than preparing believers for the hereafter.[4]” Here lies the ultimate problem, the adding and taking away, or the changing of God’s Word; for at the point that happens, it is no longer His, but rather ours. It becomes the corrupted substance of a world-influenced love for sinfulness and disobedience; a point that I believe Douthat is trying to make; “an age of crisis was swiftly followed by an era of renewal, in which forces threatening the faith either receded or were discredited and Christianity itself revived[5].” Is the answer revival? Is revival even possible at this point? I mean after all, how easily are we moved after we have been convinced that we are entitled to something; how quickly are we ready to reform a system that works in our favor? When we evaluate the modern-day influences of the Christianity that Douthat describes (and I mostly agree with), we see a corrupted religion that allows its followers to practice what they want, live how they want, go and down whatever they want, and still claim that they are giving glory to the god that they have created. How do you reform a monster like that?

My faith and hope may be a little different than others, because in spite of the failing efforts of many religious programs and doctrines, I take hope in the fact that Jesus did not tell the church that they would convert the world; nor did He promise them that all would obey the gospel or even love God. The reality was that Christ set up His followers to understand the challenge that lay before them. We looked at Matthew 24 in Bible class the other day as a product of our study through the book of Revelation; for a worldly person, this study was fraught with peril, discouragement, and fear. However, for a Christian, we see light shining in a world of darkness. We see that they only true way to rejoice when Christ returns is by knowing that we stayed true to His Word; nothing else. In Revelations 2-3, Christ speaks to the 7 Churches and warns them of the corruptions and errors that have erupted among them; with each lesson He concludes with the phrase, “To him who overcomes…” To further support Mike’s ‘Armor of God’ lesson; “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day…[6]” The reality is that we have not been deceived by God in the joining the war that we have; to the contrary, we have been well warned concerning the schemes of the Devil. We are not here to accommodate sinful desires, to make people happy, or to convince people that God is what they want Him to be. As Christians we are here to teach the TRUTH.

“But he who does the TRUTH comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done IN GOD[7].”

“For the hour is coming, and now is, when the TRUE worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and TRUTH; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.[8]

I read this week on Dailywire.com that the CDC released a report concerning a 70% increase in suicides over the past decade; it seems the world has lost its reason for living. The author of the article sited a Psychological Science study that sought to figure the source of this problem and realized that the answer was shocking. “The researchers found that this factor of religiosity mediated the relationship between a country’s wealth and perceived meaning…they analyzed other factors–education, fertility rates, individualism, and social support–to see if they could explain the findings, but in the end it came down to religion.[9]” It seems that when God is removed, or a false god is substituted for the real God, then people lose hope for the future. They may act as though they like the freedom of not worrying about Hell, or not having someone to tell them how to live their life; but in fact, God is the hope for the world.

As I said, I am a biblical traditionalist, and as such, I believe we should be fighting harder than ever to cling to God’s Word as our ONLY guide for leading souls to Him. The moment we twist, pervert, or modify His Word, we become corruptors of it, and thus, False Messengers. When we see the evil before us, we must remember that God has already equipped us with everything we need to be victorious.

Bibliography

Balmer, Randall. NYTimes.com. April 27, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/books/review/bad-religion-by-ross-douthat.html (accessed March 22, 2018).

Douthat, Ross. Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012.

Shapiro, Ben. Dailywire.com. March 20, 2018. www.dailywire.com/news/28449.cdc-youth-suicide-skyrockets-70-over-last-decade-ben-shapiro (accessed March 20, 2018).

 

 

[1] Douthat, Ross. Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012.

Shapiro, Ben. Dailywire.com. March 20, 2018. www.dailywire.com/news/28449.cdc-youth-suicide-skyrockets-70-over-last-decade-ben-shapiro (accessed March 20, 2018).

 

[2] Balmer, Randall. NYTimes.com. April 27, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/books/review/bad-religion-by-ross-douthat.html (accessed March 22, 2018).

[3] Luke 6:44.

[4] Douthat, Ross. Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012.

Shapiro, Ben. Dailywire.com. March 20, 2018. www.dailywire.com/news/28449.cdc-youth-suicide-skyrockets-70-over-last-decade-ben-shapiro (accessed March 20, 2018). P 84.

 

[5] Ibid, pg 278.

[6] Ephesians 6:13

[7] John 3:21

[8] John 4:23

[9] Shapiro, Ben. Dailywire.com. March 20, 2018. www.dailywire.com/news/28449.cdc-youth-suicide-skyrockets-70-over-last-decade-ben-shapiro (accessed March 20, 2018).

About the Author

Shawn Hart

5 responses to “Becoming Good Fruit”

  1. Great heartfelt post as always Shawn! I agree that we need to hold tight to the Word of God as our only source of Truth and I think if we loved people the way we read Jesus did in the Word we would have far less suicides and I think far less kids shooting up schools. It seems to be those marginalized people who feel forgotten, judged and unloved who are either ending their life or ending others’ before they end their own. Sad state of affairs for our country and I also feel the author was rather hypocritical with how he talked about those he was calling heretics.

  2. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Shawn,

    Wowza, this was fantastic, “I take hope in the fact that Jesus did not tell the church that they would convert the world; nor did He promise them that all would obey the gospel or even love God. The reality was that Christ set up His followers to understand the challenge that lay before them.” One of those being suicide, which is one of Satan’s greatest lies!

    Most of all, thank you for reminding us of the victory we all have in Christ! Have a great Spring break!

  3. mm M Webb says:

    Shawn,
    Great post again! Thanks for recognizing and making a plug for the “spiritual battle is all around us,” in the church, and doctrines being taught. “Stand firm” (Eph. 6:13).
    How do you reform a heretical monster like that, you ask? I hope the answer to that is what we are learning as we go through these books, write, critiques, comment about, and discuss as a cohort. I’m trained in disaster response on a large scale. If we modified some of the incident management techniques to dealing with large scale human caused disasters to the current state of the Christian church, then maybe we could start regaining some of the ground currently under siege from the forces of evil. I would make Douthat my Media liaison to the Incident Command center for spiritual reclamation efforts.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

  4. Shawn,

    Thanks for your post. I had just commented on Jason’s post with a personal story (you can read it there) and then read yours which links abandonment of religion with an increase in suicide. Interesting convergence!

    You said, “When we evaluate the modern-day influences of the Christianity that Douthat describes (and I mostly agree with), we see a corrupted religion that allows its followers to practice what they want, live how they want, go and down whatever they want, and still claim that they are giving glory to the god that they have created. How do you reform a monster like that?”

    You have nailed it. You can’t reform a monster that’s made in our own image – it must be slayed! We must submit to God, not create our own customized, spiritual pathways. This is the lesson from the Book of Judges where everyone did what was right in their own eyes. And look where that got them.

  5. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Shawn,

    I concur with your findings and conclusions particularly in regard to distorting the scripture to interpret it in whatever manner suits us. The problem of course is that everyone believes that they are the only ones who have the ability to interpret it objectively – which of course is ludicrous. While there are certainly issues raised by Douthat that have clearly undermined orthodox Christianity and the role it continues to play in the US culture, many of those developed because people believed they had the ‘correct’ interpretation. Is it even possible to come to any consensus and restore a semblance of unity?

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