When was the last time you heard a prominent name in Christian circles say something like this:
I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, ‘Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,’ or, ‘Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!’ But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality.
["It's Not About the Dream," WORLD magazine, Sep 24, 2011, 57-58]
(hat tip: A Twisted Crown of Thorns)
Well, those words belong to none other than Phil Vischer, one of the co-creators of the wildly popular Veggie Tales™ enterprise. And as hard as those words must have been for Mr. Vischer to say, they are rather refreshing to hear. For so long now, we (and many others) have been lamenting the fact that modern-day (what passes for) Christianity has become nothing more than fodder for itching ears and a dumbed-down, candy-coated morality–with a touch of Jesus on the side.
But Christianity–true, genuine, Christianity (or, more appropriately, the submission of one to the Lordship of Jesus Christ)–is not just “good behavior.” That is what is known as “salvation by works.” And Jesus taught that simply “good behavior” is not the same as salvation. Matthew 5:46-47–“46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?”
The apostle Paul encouraged the church at Ephesus that they no longer had to go about trying to earn enough gold stars and smiley faces before God would accept them–rather, they were saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone–not by piling up brownie points with God. Ephesians 2:8-9–8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. And Mr. Vischer nailed this point, and sent a stinging rebuke to the watered-down, man-centered, crossless “Christianity” that is flooding the American landscape:
American Christian[s]… are drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god… We’ve completely taken this Disney notion of ‘when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true’ and melded that with faith and come up with something completely different. There’s something wrong in a culture that preaches nothing is more sacred than your dream. I mean, we walk away from marriages to follow our dreams. We abandon children to follow our dreams. We hurt people in the name of our dreams, which as a Christian is just preposterous.
We can only pray that the many purpose-driven churches that dot the American countryside would examine themselves as closely as Mr. Vischer, and rather than worrying about putting Christ back in Christmas, they would put more emphasis on putting Christ back in their messages.