Quill and writing

The Contemporary Church is Juvenile

This indictment manifests itself in various ways, but essentially the charge here is that contemporary Christianity refuses to grow up!  It settles for a form of Christianity that is puerile and simplistic. Christian bookshops (where they still exist!) are full of shallow theology significantly adrift from the great heritage of Christian scholarship that Christ’s true shepherds (Eph 4:11) have bequeathed to us down through the centuries.  Any fair-minded appraisal of the past two millennia should conclude that the Reformation was that glorious period of redemptive history in which God’s light shone through the medieval darkness of approximately 1500 years during which time, apart from a few notable luminaries, Scriptural truth was largely obscured.  Bibles were rare; Scripture in one’s mother tongue was hardly known at all.  Everywhere Romish superstitions were peddled by ignorant priests/monks who stubbornly resisted Biblical enlightenment preferring to remain fast bound under Papal (ecclesiastical and political) tyranny.  But what God gifted His Church in the collective scholarship of continental Reformers and English Puritans has now been all but forgotten.  Instead of Geneva serving as an exemplary experiment in the construction of Christian society, ‘Calvinism’ has today become a pejorative term denoting a truncated pseudo-intellectualism or else ice-cold dogmatism.  But any fair-minded acquaintance with the best scholars of that era will quickly prove that they were Biblical giants compared with the dwarfs who occupy most present-day pulpits.  In Deuteronomy 8, God warned Israel against forgetfulness.  Christ’s people today have readily forgotten, nay, they have wilfully turned their backs on what God accomplished for His Church centuries ago. 

St Paul cautioned the first-century Church against the maintenance of religious childishness (see 1Cor 13:11).  What was needed was a mature understanding of God’s Truth as revealed in Scripture as God’s people (both individually and collectively) pilgrimage towards a fulness of understanding which manifests itself as a comprehensive, Christian worldview (Eph 4:14&23) in which every feature is Biblically informed and every thought is brought into subjection to Christ (2Cor 10:4-6).  There are no short cuts to such Christian maturity.  Persistent, daily, careful and thoughtful Bible reading is required together with a willingness to have one’s total way of thinking brought into conformity with God’s principles of wisdom for ‘man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ (Matt 4:4; Deut 8:3).  Alas, Jesus warned that ‘a student is not above his teacher’ (Matt 10:24).  Tragically, a great many of those who presume to shepherd God’s flock steadfastly prove to be woefully inadequate Bible students themselves and therefore unqualified to lead others.  How are they any different from the Pharisees of old? (See Matt 15:14)

The author of Hebrews writes in the 5th chapter, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (vs 12-14). Accordingly, Christian maturity comes as a result of (i) recognising the need to progress from first principles (ii) acquiring an appetite for the meat of God’s word and (iii) apprehending that fulness of understanding only comes to those who have learnt to exercise their minds in bringing Scripture to bear upon all the issues of life. The great tragedy of twentieth century Christianity is every legitimate human enterprise as ‘spiritual’.  We shall deal with this later (see P – pietism) but it bears repetition that Christians have lost (temporarily) the culture war by conceding as ‘religiously neutral territory’ the ground they ought to have been contending earnestly for.  The Great Commission has been reduced to a pursuit of souls ‘saved’ for heaven in eternity. More correctly, Andrew Sandlin points out,

“The gospel is calculated to redeem not just individuals but all human life and culture and creation. The good news is that Jesus Christ has dealt and is dealing decisively with the problem of sin by gradually reinstalling his righteousness in the earth. The gospel is that God is setting right everything wrong in this world. This means that all elements of culture which is man’s creative interaction with creation, including money and food and technology and education and the arts and politics presently burdened under the weight of sin, are designed to be redeemed. Salvation isn’t liberation from creation; it’s the liberation from sin.”

But this requires careful hard work and great maturity.  Sadly, great swathes of Christians prefer to settle for an infantile faith. God warns those ‘that remain at ease in Zion’ (Amos 6).  Judgement inevitably ensues as it surely has for us today!  How have you spent your life dear reader?  Fidelity to Christ does not equate with fidelity to your local physical ‘Church’ gathering.  True covenantal faithfulness warrants fidelity to the Word of God before any human council. Rather than promoting Christian maturity, contemporary Churches positively discourage it.  The recent availability of excellent free Scriptural teaching from master technicians (e.g. Rousas Rushdoony, Francis Nigel Lee & Greg Bahnsen, et al) is providentially significant.  God has supplied a consummate feast of learning for all who have ears to hear and eyes to see.  But I have only ever heard general discouragements from Church ‘leaders’ directed to those who venture to go hunting for such strong meat.  Why is this?  I can only suppose the Church leaders arrogantly wish to be seen and noticed as those occupying the seats of learning in the synagogues (see Mark 12:38-39). 

God Himself has provided us with THE standard of spiritual maturity we should aspire to achieve.  It is simply this – the fulness of Scripture!  Notwithstanding the riches of free resources available to us online and in print, the average Church attendee is functionally illiterate and incapable of comprehending life through the worldview glasses of Scripture.  Serious Bible study is disdained; regular daily Bible reading is neglected; disciplined rehearsal of the rudiments of orthodoxy (via catechising) does not happen.  The lion’s share of our conversation together as believers ought to be saturated with Scripture and how it applies to the whole of life.  But is it?  Frankly, no!  Rather, it tends to be Biblically vacuous.  Isaiah warns us (see Is 39:9-14) of the prospect of/for this illiteracy.

In conclusion, I offer you a simple practical test.  In the Olivet discourse, Jesus expected his audience, as readers of Daniel’s visions, to understand what was meant by ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ (Matt 24:15-16 citing Dan 11:31).  Would you have known? What would your answer have been?

‘I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them’ (Is 3:4).