June 5, 2000
Is the therapeutic now our "gospel"?
By JOHN ANDERSON
"I"f we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:8-9)
Three things seem to be avoided in the modern church: front seats, third verses of four-verse hymns, and the mention of sin.
We can smile, but that third one, that we in the church avoid the mention of sin is apparently true from a study done by James Davison Hunter who writes of his findings in the spring edition of The Public Interest. Columnist Mona Charen says, "Hunter examines the moral education curricula at churches and synagogues around the nation, and he finds the old categories of sin, repentance and redemption are out and the therapeutic language of self-esteem and self-love are in."
Hunter concludes, "[Charen says,] that at this moment in history the secular world view is influencing the churches far more than the churches are influencing the surrounding society" an observation that, if true, should get the immediate, penetrating repentance of everyone of us in the pulpit.
What appears now is that we are in an age that overvalues the therapeutic, and this has apparently immensely influenced the message of the Church; and, in the words of Sanford Pinsker, "we are awash in projects out to bolster one's sagging self-esteem or to provide spirituality on the cheap."
Well what our trendy spirituality on the cheap has resulted in is that we now don't have sin; what we have are problems, hang-ups, needs, sometimes generic evils, and, especially in the Charismatic world, demons or whatever is the latest doctrinal fad.
The question thunders, Why did Christ die? For our needs, hang-ups, problems, to give us self-love and success and happiness? Or did He die for our sins?
Of course our culture, as cultures before, has long used carefully selected words and phrases to cover its degeneracy and mask the grisly actuality of sin; and therapeutic language is especially useful to do this. Sin of course is a jarring, convicting word that most people who practice it find distasteful; so euphemisms are employed to soften the impact. Take for example "promiscuousness," "premarital sex" and "extramarital sex": These soft words have so subtly infiltrated our language, including the language of our pulpits, that we have long forgotten that we are using them to replace the biblical sins of "whoremongering," "fornication," and "adultery."
Our use of language to lie to ourselves insipidly reduces abortion to "reproductive freedom" or "a reproductive right"; we do not kill an unborn child, we " evacuate a womb" or "terminate a pregnancy"; the unborn is denied humanity by being tagged a "fetus" or "collection of cells." Or who has the stomach to face the hideous details of a partial-birth abortion when a late-term, viable unborn child is pulled out, feet-first, from his or her mother until only part of the head remains inside, scissors are used to stab open a hole at the base of the little one's skull, and his or her brains are sucked out? Is this not infanticide? Evidence says the baby feels pain. But what do we care? We purposely numb our conscience by focusing on the alleged therapeutic benefit to the health of the mother.
However, while it is expectable for our world to use the language of lying to shield itself from its sin, it is quite another for us preachers to help them do it. When we do, it is the foulest treachery: We are unfaithful to the Word of God, unfaithful to those we are to shepherd, and unfaithful to our beautiful Lord who has commanded us to "Preach the Word! Be ready in season or out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching." (II Timothy 4:2)
True love for those we minister to will impel us clearly and candidly to define sin from Scripture. It is a false compassion that will not. If we are omitting speaking of sin, then what is motivating us? Fear of men? Wanting to keep our crowd? Indifference? Distraction by the fad of the moment?
There is no question that our no-sin and no-repentance "gospel" is salt without savor, and has enormously contributed to the amorality of our public conscience. This helps explain why the Bill Clinton-Al Gore administration, arguably the most corrupt in our history, one which has made a science of the sins of lying calling it "spinning"; and the sin of slander "slurring the reputation of opponents" has received so little public outrage. In another age, the colorful Billy Sunday, who was known to name sin, once said to a large audience, "If this rubs the fur the wrong way, turn the cat around."
When we do not speak of sin, there are several tragic casualties. We'll speak of them next time. However in the time of Joel the Lord called for the priests to "Weep between the porch and the altar." (Joel 2:17) This was part of the Lord's larger urgent call for everyone in the sinning nation "from elders to babies" to gather for a solemn or a sacred assembly and "cry out to the Lord." (Joel 1:14, 2:15-16).
America needs such a solemn assembly emphasis, with we in the pulpit leading the way.
If Hunter is right and the secular world view is influencing our churches far more than our churches are the surrounding society if it is true that we ministers of the Gospel have compromised our message with the therapeutic and are ignoring sin in our churches and in our culture if it is true we Christians have lost our saltiness and grown worldly if it is true that we have lost our first love and need to repent if it is true that we need a deep, biblical revival then it is also true that, like Israel "and America in its earliest days" we need solemn assembly meetings and gatherings all across our beloved nation!
Hear the heart of our Lord on this. Let solemn assemblies be held soon, and urgently! Let them be called from the natural entities of local churches and governments.
And, especially, let as many as possible be held between now and our national election in November.
Let us know you are having a solemn assembly. Let us know if we can help you; we have ones designated who can. Contact us by phone, email or letter.
Let's make the time between now and our elections a time to earnestly "cry out to the Lord" in our churches, parishes and communities.
Let's understand that if the therapeutic is in fact our gospel, and we continue it being so; then we will consent to this generation being damned, forever the victim of our sad, but egregious heresy: allowing men and women to go to hell feeling good about themselves!
Let us pray::
Our gracious Heavenly Father, we lift praise to you. Thank you for your gracious blessings to us as a nation. Thank you for your provision of Salvation from sin through the Blood of Christ Jesus. But Father we have allowed the theories of men to contaminate what you have called us to proclaim and compromised your message. Forgive us of this treachery! And Lord we ask that we as ministers will lead the way in repentance in our nation. May solemn assembly type of meetings be held all across our beloved land in churches and communities, and may your Church experience mighty revival and our nation spiritual awakening.