In Romans 2:24, Paul declares that the name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles because of the behavior of the Jews. I think that the church in America needs to confess that we have done little better. We need to identify and address the reasons we have given for non-believers to blaspheme the name of God.
How have we caused non-believers to blaspheme? I believe it is because we seem to gravitate to one of three extremes:
- The first, and perhaps most damaging, is what I would call the “frozen chosen.” The good news is that these are people who expend great efforts in studying Scripture and understanding it. However, they go wrong when they then become smug in their doctrine and draw a hard boundary around what they consider right belief. Whether it is intentional or not, these folks pronounce judgment against all those who do not agree with their doctrinal stands. As a result, they stand in condemnation of the surrounding culture. Because of their condemnation, the right answers that they may have from Scripture go unheard by those who desperately need to hear them.
- The second group is the hyper Pentecostals or others who take an anti-intellectual stand with regard to belief and practice. These are the ones who would claim, “I don’t have to understand it, I just believe it.” Their faith is real but lacks understanding. As a result, they become out of touch with the surrounding culture and are of limited help when the hard questions get asked. Their anti-intellectual stance reinforces the impression of outsiders that faith is a belief in something despite evidence to the contrary.
- The third group includes those who have sought to bring more people into the church by blurring the lines of distinction between the church and surrounding culture. These see the message and mission of the church to be fluid and changeable. For these, the Bible becomes a guideline rather than a standard. They succumb to the ethos of the day and seek to reconcile the Bible with that ethos. These are of little help to the surrounding culture because they are part of it. A drowning man needs a lifeguard and will find little comfort in having someone drown along with him.
For the church to be what she is called to be, each of these groups needs to repent and return to the words and methodology of Jesus.
- The frozen chosen need to return to the Gospel and focus upon it. They need to allow freedom of interpretation in areas where the Bible is not clear. For example, eschatology (the study of last things or prophecy) should not be a distinctive over which Christians should divide. It would be much more productive to focus on the things in which we agree. These need to imitate their Lord in his empathy for the hurting and lost. These need to repent of their pride in superior understanding.
- The hyper Pentecostals need to move beyond an emotional response and deepen their understanding of how Jesus Christ answers the questions that the world is asking. These will have to repent of their pride in their exercise of “supernatural” gifts and exuberant worship.
- The cultural relativists need to repent of their ignorance of Scripture and the pride in refusing to submit to it.
Before we complain about the culture around us, Peter reminds us that “it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God.” (1 Peter 4:17) We need to get our own house in order so that we can be used by God to impact our culture.