Not long ago I got to sit and chat with a missionary to Nepal. He and his wife have been over there for some time sharing the Gospel with the Nepalese people. When we were talking, he told me that the greatest challenge in Nepal is the pagan religion already in place. Because the Nepalese people are polytheistic, they hear the Gospel and think it sounds great, so they add Jesus to the pantheon they worship. Jesus becomes another god on their shelf. And it seems as if even those who reject Jesus don’t condemn Him. It seems as if they tolerate Christians just fine, so long as they don’t cause a disturbance.
As I was working this morning, I started to mull this conversation over. Now I am very aware that our worlds are both literally and figuratively miles apart. However there is a strange familiarity to the story he shared with me. You see, America is not so different from Nepal in at least one key way: Everyone has their gods already, and they just want to add Jesus to their pantheon; and those who don’t want Jesus tolerate Him so long as He keeps to Himself. In other ways our mission fields are massively divergent, but here we are not so far apart.
For those unfamiliar with the term, “post-modern” is used to describe the present reigning philosophical period that pervades the culture. It is aptly described as a deep-seated skepticism of everything. All truth claims are to be questioned; none are to be believed. The truth of the matter is dependent on the subject experiencing it. Imagine two baseball umpires, one believing in absolute truth and one a practicing post-modern. The first says “I call them as they are;” the second, “They are as I call them.”
This assumption — “all truths are equally valid and none are binding” — underlies much of modern American culture. Christ has become a good teacher among many equals, rather than the unique Son of God. People are glad to add His voice to the myriad of other spiritual guides they already listen to, or they are content to allow you to believe as you wish. In both cases, however, they refuse to confess that Jesus is God and Lord.
This attitude is present in the visible church as well. Pastor’s refuse to rebuke unsound doctrine. People get upset when you name names like T. D. Jakes or Steven Furtick; calling out a heretic is, for the first time in Christian history, unthinkable. Why? Because those teachers are seen as equally valid strains of Christian thought. The visible church has succumbed to the culture’s ideas that everyone teaches truth. “They must be doing something good! Look how big their church is!” We no longer test men by their doctrine but by how many “lives they’ve changed.” I have been told that it’s wrong to rebuke false teachers because they may have helped others in their spiritual walk. In other words, so long as something a heretic said has helped someone somewhere feel closer to God, then it must be of value. If that is the prevailing attitude of the American church, it doesn’t seem as if Jesus would be welcome in our pulpits.
Pastors, return to your posts. Man up and preach the Word, not this castrated, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in- your-mouth, Osteen-esque skuvbalon which leaves this people with a million excuses. Answer me this: On judgement day, will those who attend your church look at you and ask why you never warned them to flee the wrath to come? Why they never heard the Law expose their Sin and their need for a Savior? In that day, pastor, will your snappy series on better marriages shield them from the wrath of God? Will they grasp for those fig leaves you kept sewing together for them, or will they be clothed in the righteousness of Christ? It will be a great and terrible day for many who now call themselves “pastor.”
All is not lost, of course. God’s Word is still living and active today. Much like Paul was provoked by the idol worship in Athens, the church should be — and I would hope is — sorely provoked by the idol worship in America. You see, ultimately post-modernity is worship of self. “I decide what is right for me.” We are freed from that dreadful tyranny of truth to serve whatever the god of our bellies tells us is right, and no one else can tell us otherwise.
This is why the Gospel cannot be reduced to Jesus as the best way; because “best” no longer means “superior to all others at all places and all times.” We must preach that Jesus is the Way. And as Paul in Athens made known the unknown God, so we stand and declare that Christ truly died for our sins; that there is indeed a God made flesh in Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, exclusive. That this God-man will not be placed lightly among other spiritual voices clamoring for our attention, but will in fact shatter our shrine to self-righteousness, self-esteem, and self-worth, and replace it with His righteousness, with esteem of His glory, and with a yearning for the One who alone is Worthy.