My previous post analyzes a study on the levels of corruption in 176 countries. Of the nations categorized in the first tier, described as “very clean,” almost all have a Protestant heritage. The United States ranked in the second tier with countries such as Botswana.
This observation left us asking why the dying liberal embers of European Protestantism seem to infuse greater morality into those countries than does the much larger and seemingly more vibrant American evangelical church into our society.
First it should be noted that immorality does in fact constitute a major problem for America. We tend to think of our nation as a moral shining city on a hill, and at one time we were. But no longer. We have become the global divorce capital, the primary smut producer and peddler of the world, and under the Obama administration a major propagator of homosexuality and abortion. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that corruption has also washed over the public sector. The Obama administration administered lies as part of their modus operandi. Politicians make decisions based on campaign contributions rather than the benefit of the American people.
Why has the evangelical church in the United States not function as a preservative? The substantial size of the American evangelical church as compared with churches in other nations provides it with sufficient potential. It does not require a high percentage of salt in meat to preserve it from corruption.
The evangelical church has failed to arrest the spread of corruption in America because of the infiltration of secular cultural concepts into the evangelical worldview, resulting in its contributing to our nation’s moral problem rather than providing a solution.
Secular post-Christian culture ultimately resulted from the hippie movement of the 60s going mainstream, permeating every segment of our society. That movement asserted that the individual has a right to do his own thing and that he should do what feels good, that is, he possesses autonomy and should employ feelings as the basis for exercising that autonomy.
Under the influence of this philosophy, American evangelicals have adopted a collage of concepts that harmonize with it.
For example, evangelicals have emphasized grace to the extent that it has been elevated to an absolute, while largely ignoring scriptural teachings on holiness and judgment. Though evangelicals virtually never make this connection, elevating grace to an absolute in effect gives the believer the latitude to do his own thing, to do what feels good, with impunity.
The same might be said of the evangelical focus on God’s love, which evangelicals emphasize to the point of overshadowing the many biblical warnings regarding God’s anger toward both the sin and the sinner and His severe dealing with sinful behavior of both believers and unbelievers.
This almost total infatuation with grace and love can be observed in almost any evangelical church on any given Sunday morning. But one also can discover this tendency via a perusal on Twitter of the followers of almost any evangelical. One frequently finds such self-descriptions as “grace freak” without ever running across a “holiness freak.” One could observe many thousands of self-portraits that mention God’s love while seldom if ever stumbling across a comment related to God’s judgment.
Evangelicals also manifests secular thinking in their focus on imputed righteousness, our righteous standing with God through the sacrifice of Christ, while giving scant attention to behavioral righteousness, though the New Testament gives significant attention to that topic. This orientation also allows the individual to do his own thing, to do what feels good, with impunity. Giving almost exclusive attention to the righteousness of Christ assigned to our account renders behavior of no significance in our relationship with God.
In fact, some concepts prevalent among evangelicals make this very point. Some teach that when God looks on us, He does not see our sinfulness, but the righteousness of Christ. In that case, behavioral sinfulness does not negatively influence our relationship with God. A widely propagated and embraced concept among evangelicals is that God loves and accepts us unconditionally. This, too, nullifies the need for righteous living. A companion concept asserts that need not “perform” to please God. This perspective also eliminates any requirement for righteous living. Instead, any suggestion that God mandates certain behaviors is designated as legalism.
Related to these concepts is the current evangelical position that we should not fear God in the normally understood meaning of that word. Rather, “fear” is viewed to refer to reverential awe or some synonymous concept. Therefore, we can practice sinful behavior with fear regarding God’s response.
Related to all the concepts mentioned above is the belief that while righteous living is not needed to please God, the believer who embraces God’s non-performance-based unconditional love and acceptance will spontaneously live righteously. In other words, he lives righteously not because he ought to but because he wants to—because he feels like it, because it becomes his thing.
Though this understanding of Christianity enjoys significant compatibility with secular culture, a factor that may be largely responsible for the rise in popularity of the evangelical church and spawning of megachurches since the sixties, every aspect of contemporary Christian culture described above can be shown to be unbiblical. I demonstrate this is my book, Counterattack: Why Evangelicals Are Loving the Culture War and How They Can Win.
It also should be noted that every one of these contemporary evangelical trends undermines morality and opens the door to corruption. Therefore, the evangelical church in America, rather than functioning as salt and light to restrain the spread of corruption in our society is responsible for its proliferation by teaching that it has no negative impact on our relationship to God.
Only as the American evangelical church returns to the teaching of Scripture regarding the fear of the Lord, holiness, and judgment will it restore righteousness that exalts a nation and stem the tide of sin that is a reproach to any people.