September 20, 2010

"fashions with a Christian colouring" vs. the simplicity of Christ


I recently found this striking quote from C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. I have not read Lewis' book, but it is a satire in which a demon is training an apprentice demon. Here, the demon speaks to his apprentice:
"What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call 'Christianity And.' You know--Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology...Christianity and Faith Healing...Christianity and Vegetarianism.... If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring.... The use of Fashions in thought is to distract the attention of men from their real dangers.... The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under.... Of a proposed course of action [God] wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; is it righteous? is it prudent? is it possible? Now if we can keep men asking 'Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time? Is it progressive or reactionary? Is this the way that History is going?' they will neglect the relevant questions.... As a result, while their minds are buzzing in this vacuum, we have the better chance to slip in and bend them to the action we have decided on. And great work has already been done."
Lewis wrote to issue a warning to the church: are you asking the wrong questions? Is your faith in Christ or in "Christ and..."? I fear that much of evangelicalism is "buzzing in this vacuum" of truth neglect. We weaken the dynamite of the gospel and Christ with our supposedly-spiritual trappings. We're picking out curtain colours for the sanctuary, unaware that the foundation of the church itself is being blasted out from beneath us because it stands not on Christ, but on human ideas.

In How People Change Tripp and Lane describe some typical ways in which believers are distracted from the "simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:3). These are some "fashions with a Christian colouring":
  • Formalism - the gospel is reduced to participation in the meetings and ministries of the church
  • Legalism - "another gospel", where salvation is earned by keeping the rules we've established
  • Mysticism - the gospel is reduced to dynamic emotional and spiritual experiences
  • Activism - the gospel is reduced to participation in Christian causes (ie: pro-life cause)
  • Biblicism - the gospel is reduced to a mastery of Biblical content and theology
  • Psychology-ism - the gospel is reduced to the healing of emotional needs
  • Social-ism - the gospel reduced to a network of fulfilling relationships
This list has been helpful to me as God has shown me that my Christianity is sometimes veiled in formalism and Biblicism rather than a vibrant relationship with Christ Himself. I need to those "very simple questions" that God asks, like, "Is it righteous?" "Does it reflect the mind of Christ?" "Is it holy?" When we get distracted from the centre, which is Christ, we ask all the wrong questions, and the life is gone. Solus Christus, sola Scriptura—too simple? I'm finding it to be richer and deeper than ever.

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