How Evangelicals Undermine Volitional Growth

We have been discussing that the will, the volition, constitutes the central component of the personality. Success in life is realized in large degree through exercising our will to follow the guidance of our mind rather than the allurements of our emotions.

We have also noted that the volition is like a muscle that must be developed. Failure to exercise and thus develop it leaves it weak and consequently leaves us vulnerable to domination by our emotions.

Yesterday’s post made the point that beginning with the 1960s American secular society adopted a culture that militates against exercising the will but rather advocates following one’s feelings.

Evangelical Failure at Volitional Development

Unfortunately, evangelical thinking has incorporated the orientation of secular society, thus demonstrating the same failure to exercise and develop the will. Here are just a few manifestation of that orientation.

  • This nullification of the will begins with the contemporary evangelical teaching on salvation, which eliminates the need for repentance and commitment to Christ. Both of these concepts call for engagement of the will, repentance entailing a commitment to turn away from one’s self-directed past and commitment to the authority of Christ calling the individual to a new life demanding the exercise of the volition.
  • Current approaches to Christian living also disengage the will. “Let go and let God” assigns the volitional exercise to God. Likewise, “It’s not in trying but in trusting” informs the individual that the will is not required for Christian living. In fact, its exercise is unbiblical.
  • These approaches fit into contemporary evangelical theology, which is based on the same unconditional acceptance dominating the American secular worldview. We are assured that we don’t have to “perform” to be accepted by God.

    “Perform” is a loaded term that cheapens the concept of obedience. Of course God does not want us to perform if that means play an artificial role as would an actor. However, Scripture is clear that obedience constitutes a requisite to living in fellowship with God and enjoying His blessing. But contemporary evangelicals allow no such demands on the will.

  • So with “There is nothing you can do to make God love you more and nothing you can do to make God love you less.” God’s love requires no engagement of the will. Live as you please and God loves you just the same.
  • More good news for the contemporary evangelical is that all my sins, past, present, and future, are forgiven. Therefore, how I live makes no difference in my relationship with God. I can volitionally float downstream and still be okay with Him.
  • “Be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet,” provides another formula for letting the will off the hook. If something is wrong with my life the appropriate response is not for me to employ my will that is empowered by the Holy Spirit to get it right. Rather, you should be patient and wait for God to fix it. For some reason my wife doesn’t buy into that one.
  • Any demands on the believer are labeled legalistic, even if those demands are based on Scripture, and any notice of failure to live biblically are excoriated as being judgmental. These defenses against the call to holy living have turned the church into a volition free zone.

So the list could go on of contemporary bumper sticker theology, all the clichés with the same underlying theme reminiscent of the hippie era assurance that we have a right to do our thing, and that God is cool with that.

Biblical Reality

The reality is that all the above are quite easily discerned to be unbiblical. Instead Scripture calls on us to engage our will in Christian living. I plan to support that position tomorrow, though even a casual reading of the New Testament will make that point countless times over.

In light of this evangelical elimination of the exercise of the will it is no wonder that the church is too weak to confront secular culture. It is no wonder that young people abandon such an anemic institution.

Abandonment of the will, the heart of the human personality, leaves us living on a subhuman level. We have hollowed out for ourselves a very comfortable and self-serving brand of Christianity, but we have sold our souls in the process.

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