Over the centuries there has been an increasing move away from orthodox biblical teaching. The idea that we are sinners, that God is beyond our ability to comprehend, and that the church was given by God for our well-being, have grown increasingly unpopular. Instead the idea that God is such a loving god, that it doesn’t matter what we do, and that the church is an optional extra, has become widespread.
Indeed in the 19th Century a number of new so-called Christian religions rose up as a consequence of the rejection of sin, and with the idea of making God understandable (e.g. Mormons (1820), Christian Science (1866), Jehovah’s Witnesses (1879), etc. etc.). However, this only reflected what was happening in the “Christian” world at large.
The reality today is that by-and-large people are not comfortable with the idea of being sinners, they do not want to believe in a God that is beyond their comprehension, and the church is irrelevant. People may not think that they are perfect, but a majority do not consider sin in terms of alienation from God at all. Unfortunately, in doing so, they have effectively reduced God to being equal with themselves – making God in their own image.
Now there is a lot of fuss these days about the threat of Islam – and I don’t want to understate that. But surely the issue of nominalism is a far greater problem for the Christian church in western countries. After all, in Australia, at the last census in 2011 61.1% of all people identified themselves as Christian, whilst only 2.2% considered themselves Muslims (1). Furthermore, according to McCrindle Research, less than 1 in 7 people who identify themselves as Christian actually go to church (2).
This effectively means that 52.88% of the population (who call themselves Christians) either have no real understanding of what Christianity is, or have rejected the church as being irrelevant. And that is on top of the 38.9% of the population who do not identify with the Christian faith at all.
Now the numbers of people who attend church regularly are a lot less than those suggested in McCrindle’s research figures. Nevertheless the figures suggest that the majority of those who call themselves Christians do not accept the orthodox view of sin, cannot accept a God who is beyond understanding, and have rejected God’s church. And to me that is a far greater problem than the problem of Islam.
Now you could ask the question, “What’s at stake? What difference does it make?” But if we were to accept the biblical view that God is a jealous God, that he takes sin seriously, and that he gave us the church for a purpose, then it doesn’t take much to see that making God in our own image is a real problem. Indeed reject any of the three issues raised, and you effectively reject God.
Furthermore, the problem of denying sin and re-modelling God to suit is that it creates a sense of false security. Now some people might find it helpful to deny reality, but what happens then? Creating an illusion doesn’t change reality. Rejecting the idea of Judgment Day, doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. And therein lies the problem.
Indeed add the 52.88% who call themselves Christians, with the 38.9% of all people who do not associate themselves with the Christian faith at all, and you have 91.78% of the population who either deny God’s existence, or have made God in their own image. And that is a serious problem that the church needs to be addressing.
(1) Australian Bureau of Statistics, Religious Affiliations, 2011 Census
(2) McCrindle Research, Church Attendance in Australia, Thursday, March 28, 2013
Posted: 27th November 2015
© 2015, Brian A Curtis