Beyond the secularists, consider how Christians on either end of the liberal/conservative spectrum cause more isolation and rejection of the faith than they could imagine. ◊
Have you come across people who are so logical and fact-based that they are logically unreasonable? That is, they are so bent on empirical evidence that they have lost objectivity for the non-physical or spiritual.
Ironically, they may say they are spiritual (not religious!) but only in the sense it reveals their sensitivity to the heart or soul even, but not at the expense of a sane and rational intellectual mind.
How about Christians on either end of the liberal/conservative spectrum whose logical yet strident stance might actually cause more isolation and rejection of the faith than they could imagine?
First, consider which end of the worldview spectrum you might fall upon: one side a secular or scientific Cultural worldview contrasted here with a Biblical worldview.1
The left side of this chart highlights the thinking of the culturally liberal who would argue that science is the only reliable source for knowledge of the physical world, while religion provides a different kind of knowledge based on experience and emotion, which science cannot provide. This thinking is prevalent in today’s college campuses and among many liberal Christians who have fallen victim to the misguided belief that Christianity and science are at odds.
The right side of this chart upholds the Biblical viewpoint that science/physical and the spiritual/non-physical are not inconsistent. In fact, they are as God intended and beautifully created.
Accommodating the Social Gospel
The authors of The Kingdom Unleashed, point out an interesting trend since the 19th century that arose out of liberal theology that sought other justification for Christianity/Church relevance. If Christians were going to surrender the physical world to science (think Darwin) and limit religion to things that cannot be demonstrated scientifically, then why not combine evangelism with social welfare and action?
The result was actually an outpouring of social good such as when British Christians spearheaded the battle to abolish slavery in the British Empire and a myriad of other social causes and philanthropic causes. 2
We now refer to this as “the social Gospel,” the idea that true Christianity is about helping the poor, the weak, the powerless, and the afflicted, while dismissing evangelism as unimportant to the Gospel.
Conservative Christianity’s Response
You might know Christians who put an emphasis on social causes. At the same time, you might know conservative Christians who absolutely reject the reduction of Christianity to social action.
Perhaps you are on one side or the other on this spectrum.
Authors Trousdale and Sunshine point out the unfortunate impact of the backlash by conservative Christians to the rise of the social Gospel:
[T]hey began to argue that Christianity is about saving people so they can go to Heaven…and that it has no relevance to the world. It might be worthwhile to engage in philanthropy – we are to love our neighbors after all – but this has nothing to do with the Gospel. Any suggestion that it did amounted, in their minds, to an endorsement of the social Gospel, which they viewed as an affront to true Christianity.
This kind of thinking has had an impact in how some Christians engage the community and operate in their churches. The combination of two distinct worldviews (Cultural and Biblical) and the tension among evangelical Christians over the social Gospel vs. saving souls, is causing Christianity to be reduced to personal salvation and personal morality.
And not much more.
So What’s Christianity Really All About?
Christianity is really about the authority of Jesus Christ over the world and the power of His Spirit unleashed across His Kingdom here on earth through His Church, the body of believers infused with that power who know, abide and walk with Christ in love and obedience. Specifically, these Christ-followers have a Biblical worldview and reject any distinction between the physical and non-physical in this world.
Jesus is Lord over all of it.
And the Gospel is the source and plumb line of truth. It is the answer and purpose for all of life. It’s neither liberal or conservative. It’s the greatest treasure there ever was. And the empowered Christ-follower is infused and enabled with the gift and desire for engaging holistically with compassion for a needy world all around us.
Yes, we Christians, among ourselves and with the secular world, quibble and argue over the ultimately inconsequential. As Jesus shared in the parable of the Hidden Treasure (Matthew 13:44), when the Kingdom is found it is like a treasure to be appreciated with joy, celebration, and an “all in” acceptance and commitment.
It’s a life changer.
Are you Liberal, Conservative, or a Follower of Christ?
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” – Matthew 13:44
1 The Kingdom Unleashed, by Jerry Trousdale & Glenn Sunshine, DMM Library, Murfreesboro, TN, p 54.
2 Ibid, p. 55.