This is Part 3 of a four-part series. To read Part 1, click here.
The Seduction of Christianity
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.1
We may have tasted the goodness of the LORD, but we still seek something more. Christians in the West exhibit, by their search for something to add to — or subtract from — their faith, a desire to be titillated, pleased, comforted, and patted on the head. We have been seduced by the treasures and pleasures of the world.
When I refer to the seduction of Christianity, I am not referring to the various debates regarding psychology and Christianity or philosophy versus the church. Nor am I speaking or writing about the well-known cults that obviously deny essential Christian doctrines while claiming to be orthodox Christians. The subject is not even doctrinal debates — whether women should be ordained or Free Masons elevated to church office. Rather, I am referring to the pagan influences that are infiltrating our churches and are even being sponsored by evangelical congregations.
An advertisement that appeared in the Los Angeles Times a number of years ago is indicative of the embracing of non-Christian influences by the church. Advertising an event at a Hollywood church, the text read as follows:
SHRI MATAJI NIRMALA DEVI
The most important spiritual figure in the world today. She will awaken in you the force that will change your life and change the world. The awakening explains and integrates all the great religions. It grants inner peace, health and joy. It is the last evolutionary step, promised by traditions that stretch back to the beginnings of human spiritual awareness.2
This is, perhaps, an extreme example. It’s not, however, a very long step beyond what goes on, unadvertised, in many American churches today. Satan uses more subtle ways to worm his way into our churches and subject us to “every wind of teaching” and “the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”3
“Values Clarification” is a philosophical system in which we are taught that everyone must own his values. The catch is that you first have to decide for yourself what those values are. In VC, there is no right; no wrong. The brainchild of Dr. Sydney Simon, VC seems like a wonderful idea. What could be wrong with teaching people that they are valuable and that their choices matter?
VC has been brought into schools and churches under the guise of “morals education,” multiculturalism, and anti-drug programs. Sunday school materials have been written using the models and exercises of VC. How often do we hear today, in the context of group discussions in the church, “there are no wrong answers”? As this writer can attest from his years of involvement in the VC movement, there are no morals involved. In fact, all moral foundations are stripped away, and the student is left with his subjective feelings and desires.
William “Kirk” Kilpatrick, Professor of Education at Boston College and author of the popular and persuasive book Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong, claims that the real problem in our society today is “moral illiteracy.” The solution he advocates is called “character education,” a return to education that is founded upon a moral base and includes discipline and the regular practice of good manners.
In an interview with this writer, Kilpatrick characterized VC and similar values-debasing programs this way:
The trouble with Values Clarifications and other programs like it from the 1960s and ’70s is that they are basically relativistic approaches to morality. They suggest that morality is a subjective and relativistic concept and there is no such thing as objective right and wrong. I think that, unfortunately, multicultural education, while well intentioned, has the same effect because it’s premised on an assumption of cultural relativism which is only a hop-and-a-skip away from moral relativism. Plus, increasingly in multicultural education we’re not just talking about ethnic diversity, we’re also talking about lifestyle diversity. Therefore, gang membership and teenage pregnancy and sexual orientation are increasingly being looked upon as simply different kinds of diversities which all demand our respect. I think the net result of this is that children become more confused.4
Materialism and self-centeredness, while not exactly to be viewed as “movements,” pose just as great a threat to the church as Values Clarification. A crucifix is more an example of “bling-bling” in many churches today than it is of the centrality of the cross as the obedient act of the second person of the Trinity.
Our theology is tailor customized in order to make us feel better. Our worship services are designed to please the ears and bolster the ego. Sermons on sin, repentance, sacrifice, or service have given way to PowerPoint presentations on “Healthy Self-Esteem,” “The Abundant Life,” and “The Well-Dressed Christian.” Hymns of the faith have been replaced with overhead-projected ditties emphasizing not God’s greatness, but my happiness.
Whatever happened to that old time religion? Evidently we have forgotten the warning addressed to us by the Apostle Peter:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?5
There are other influences in the church today that are suspect, such as martial arts training, yoga, and other Eastern concepts. Secularism and technology can be negative when they become the center of church programs. The drive to run the church with the newest technology and the bottom-line perspective of business can cloud our vision of a creator God who cares for His flock.
Churches don’t all have to look the same. Technology is not to be eschewed. Certainly we want to run the church efficiently so that more work can be done on behalf of the LORD. What we all need, however, is less emphasis on teaching modules, programs, and modernity. We need to get back to the genuine article. Here’s what it looks like:
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.6
1. 1 Peter 2:1–3 (NIV).
2. A copy of this ad appeared in The Seduction of Christianity, by Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon, p.75.
3. Ephesians 4:14 (NIV).
4. The Massachusetts News, October 2001. The interview is still available on the web at http://www.massnews.com/past_issues/other/10_Oct/kilpat.htm.
5. 1 Peter 4:12–17 (NIV).
6. Ephesians 4:11-17. (NIV)