Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.
Evangelical Christianity teaches that the true followers of Jesus are to be IN the world but not OF the world. The writer of the book of 1 John wrote:
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17)
Notice what is being taught here:
- Christians are not to love the world
- Christians are not to love the things of the world
- If any professing Christian loves the world, the love of God the Father is not in him (they are not a Christian)
- All that is in the world: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, does not come from God the Father but is from the world
- The world and its lusts will someday pass away, but those (Christians) who do the will of God (not loving the world or the things of the world) will abide (live with God) forever.
Many Evangelical Christians I know live in constant turmoil concerning the “world.” They know the Bible commands them to not love the world or the things that are in the world, but dammit, they just so happen to LIVE in the world they are not to love.
What’s are Evangelicals to do? They don’t want to be Amish or withdraw into a cult-like Jonestown or Waco, so they try to make peace with the world by practicing what I call the “replacement doctrine.”
The Christian church has practiced the replacement doctrine for at least 1,700 years. The Roman Catholic Church appropriated heathen holidays and replaced them with a Christian version. Christmas and Easter, both pagan in origin, were replaced by Christian versions of the holidays. Throughout history, Christians have been quite willing to take what the world has to offer, repackage it, and call it their own.
In the twenty-first century, Evangelicals are quite adept at practicing the replacement doctrine. There is a Christian version of everything;
- Halloween becomes Trunk or Treat or JesusWeen (article on Jesus Ween)
- Christian TV (National Religious Broadcasters)
- Christian movies (Christian Cinema, Pure Flix)
- Christian books (Christian Book, Crossroads Christian Bookstore)
- Christian radio (National Religious Broadcasters)
- Christian bands (list of Christian bands)
- Christian comedians (list of Christian comedians)
- Christian dating sites (Christian Mingle, Christian Cafe)
- Christian sex toys (Covenant Spice, Married Dance)
- Christian colleges (list of Evangelical colleges)
- Christian daycare, preschool, elementary and high schools
- Christian internet, web filters, web design (Clean Internet, Covenant Eyes)
- Christian homeschool book publishers (Abeka, Bob Jones Press)
- Christian legal services (Christian Legal Services, Christian Law Association, Home School Legal Defense Association)
- Christian medical and dental care (Christian Medical & Dental Associations)
- Christian clothing (Elevated Faith, Christian Strong)
- Businesses displaying a cross or fish symbol
Anything the world has, Christians have a replacement for it. The only problem is this: most of the Christian replacements suck. Anyone want to argue that Christian music, TV, radio, or movies are of better quality than what the world puts out? I know I sure don’t. Is Fireproof better quality than A Thief in the Night? Sure, but both movies are little more than evangelistic tools meant to win the lost and encourage the faithful. As their Redbox account or Netflix queue delightfully shows, Evangelicals love the world’s movies. They may watch Courageous, God’s Not Dead, God’s Not Dead 2, or Facing the Giants, but they secretly and guiltily love Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul, The Walking Dead, and Westworld.
Instead of being counter-cultural and realizing that being NOT of the world means NOT indulging in the things of the world, Christians are heaven-bent on having their cake and eating it too. If a person is going to be a Bible-believing, Jesus-worshiping Evangelical Christian, then it means doing without what the world has to offer. If they are unwilling to practice what the Bible preaches, then perhaps it is time for them to stop saying “I am a Christian.” Remember, the Christian road is a straight and narrow way and few be there that find it.
Let’s face it, the world is fun. The things the world has to offer are far beyond anything the Christian church can offer, and Evangelicals need to realize their attempts to replace the world with Christianized versions are embarrassing and silly. There’s nothing worse than watching Christians try to act hip and cool all the while saying they love Jesus. Get in or get out . . .
As a card-carrying atheist, I love the world and the things that are in the world. Yes, the world is dangerous and its allurements can hurt and destroy. World-walkers must be vigilant and tread carefully. That said, I have no desire to go back to the cheap illusions found in Evangelical Christianity. Why would I ever want to go back to the silly imitations that Christians use to replace the things of the world? No thanks.
I realize this puts me at odds with Jesus and John. They were wrong about the world. The world in and of itself is not the problem. Yes, the world is a wild, wooly place. I get it: play with fire and you might get burnt. However, avoidance and replacement are not the answer.
Discernment and maturity are well suited and necessary for the world-walker. Instead of a book that plots out the way people must walk, giving them a long list of thou shalt nots, the world-walker must investigate and judge every thing and every experience encountered while on the path of life. Rational, careful, reasoned thinking is required every step of the way.
It is far easier to be an Evangelical Christian: the Bible is clear, do this and thou shalt live. No need for judgment and discernment, the Bible covers everything and everyone in the world. Isn’t that great? No need to think, just do what
Jesus the pastor/evangelist/elder/bishop/more mature Christians than you say and all will be well.
Many Evangelicals — because of the teachings of the Bible — attempt to avoid the common bond they have with other humans. We are ALL world-walkers, people of the dust. Instead of trying to avoid the world or replace the world with cheap imitations, the Evangelical church would be better served if they truly and completely embraced the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man. Instead of an US vs.THEM way of thinking, how much better would the world be if we were all one, a oneness that would make a universalist shout?
Come on in Christian friend. The worldly end of the pool is warm and the company is grand (though you might be bothered a bit by the skimpy bathing suits). Once you try the deep end of the pool, you will never want to go back to the kiddie end of the pool. Really, who wants to listen to Christian rock when you can listen to the real thing? Stop worrying about what Jesus would do. Embrace your humanity, and enjoy the only life you will ever have.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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