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How in the World is Christianity Doing?
Part II: The Dangers of Non-discernment

By David L. Parrish, 2005
Originally published in The Point

In our last article we considered “counterfeit Christianity.” We enumerated several concerns about current movements that claim the Name of Christ but have serious and fatal errors. It is not popular in our day to criticize – or even critique – churches or organizations that call themselves Christians. However, as we noted before, the Scriptures give clear guidelines for what constitutes biblical Christianity; in addition, our Lord and the New Testament writers were not hesitant to “name names” and isolate heretical teachings, as we see, for example, in 2 Timothy 1. We are also challenged to constantly take heed to ourselves and our doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6-7, 16), and to be ready to boldly, yet humbly, confront those who oppose sound doctrine (2 Timothy 2:23-26). Our discussion centered on two disturbing trends in Christianity today; essentially these relate to discipleship and revivalism (what it means to truly follow Christ); we remembered that the foundational issue is the authority of Scripture.

Here we would like to address an underlying problem, the unusual lack of discernment among believers in our day. A.W. Tozer (Root of the Righteous, 1955) said he observed one significant defiency among evangelical Christians which might turn out to be the real cause of most of our spiritual troubles: the lack of spiritual discernment, especially among our leaders! He asked how there could be so much Bible knowledge and yet so little insight or moral penetration. Fifty years later our vision is no clearer. People who call themselves Christians are quick to accept new trends, buy the latest book, digest the current psychological babble – all without a healthy biblical discernment.

The need for better vision and clearer judgment on the part of Christians should not be undervalued. There are several dangers of non-discernment. First, there is the danger of false assurance of salvation. Consider the eternal peril of one who sets his or her own standards of what it means to be a Christian. Perhaps our evaluation here is limited to “how in America is Christianity doing?” but the call to true discipleship should be clear and unceasing. If biblical standards and convictions are missing, we have both the right and the responsibility to challenge one’s claims to be part of the family. “Christianity light” should be exposed for what it is: a gross misrepresentation of Christ’s call to follow Him. Far from being judgmental, it is the most loving thing we can do. Our willingness to confront nominal Christians in the light of Scripture will be the greatest service to them – and will bring glory to God. Second, there is the danger of reinterpreting “church” and lowering the standard for what the church is all about. Much of the modern church growth movement is a reaction to cultural pressures or an embracing of cultural patterns. In this scenario, churches are formed or “re-formed” to meet the felt needs of the people. In an effort to attract people and gain acceptance, churches downplay (or ignore) authoritative biblical preaching and New Testament patterns that include (among other things) church discipline, music that has depth and biblical content, and an emphasis on worship and prayer. A recent movement whose catch phrase is “open church” describes a “New Christianity” in which God has handed down a somewhat revised set of rules that include substituting free sharing in church as the Spirit leads for biblical preaching (and preachers!). Steve Muse (erwm.com) and Paul Proctor (newswithviews.com) expose the fallacies of this broad trend promoted by James Rutz in Megashift.

I trust you can see the connection between the two dangers: Man-made standards are replacing divine patterns. The mega shift is away from God’s Word and the Person and work of Christ. Jesus declared, “if anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” As we evaluate the state of Christianity, where are the self-denying, cross-taking, Christ-following churches and believers? Is the message self-esteem and personal fulfillment – or God-fearing lifestyles characterized by obedience to a clear Word from God?

Tozer’s words are incisive and insightful: “The tendency to accept without question and follow without knowing why is very strong in us. For this reason whatever the majority of Christians hold at any given time is sure to be accepted as true and right beyond a doubt. It is easier to imitate than to originate; it is easier and, for the time being, safer to fall into step without asking too many questions about where the parade is headed.” An accurate measurement of how the Church is doing in the world requires a wholesale return to biblical discernment.


 
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