George Santayana is credited with the famous saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The lesson he teaches here is that ignoring the study of history, the lessons of history, will leave an ignorant public prone to fall prey to the same sorts of events in the future.
We can extend this argument further to Christian theology and Church history. I believe that those professing Christians who do not study theology, including the history of Christianity, could very well fall prey to the heresies of the past. We see it today, where Christianity is being redefined by men and women whose audiences do not discern truth from error because they do not know their theology.
In an earlier post I bemoaned the lack of Christian theology in a Christian bookstore packed full of cute little kitschy trinkets instead of the meat of Christian thinkers. There’s a reason this former bookstore has taken the word “books” out of its title. It seems more interested in selling trinkets that sell Jesus’ name than books that teach about His word.
I mentioned in that other post that I saw plenty of Christian Fiction and Christian Romance. Will readers get their theology from these books? I hope not!
We also found on the shelves plenty of Christian Living books by Joyce Meyer, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Rick Warren, and Joel Osteen. However, there was no Francis Schaeffer, no Spurgeon, Augustine, Grudem, Machen, Walther, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, or others. None of the great church fathers, nothing of early Christian church history lined the shelves.
Why does that matter? On the shelves of this
bookstore there were NONE of the Church Fathers or the great theologians to counter the drivel coming out of the Emergent Church, which produces a swill of sewage that reinterprets Christianity according to its own sensibility and not according to the truth of Scripture. On that store’s website you can find theology if you want it, but you cannot find it walking into the store. Around the corner from this store, at Barnes and Noble, we found more Christian theology than in this Christian store! Oh, and on the website of this store you can also find a whole category called Emergent Community. Apparently the heresy sells well enough to garner its own category. So the “Christian” in this Christian store name is actually a catch-all for whatever heresy sells.
So how will people walking into the local Christian bookstore learn theology, outside of God’s word? Apparently your only option is to study the words of the Emergent leaders to find reinvented theology, not biblical theology. There, among the swill, you will find new gnosticism; methods for hearing God’s voice according to some secret, mystical method; or perhaps a new kind of Christianity in case what you grew up with dissatisfied you. And why not reinvent it? Theology and history no longer matter when you no longer rely on the Word of God for your source of all truth.
Hebrews 5: 11-14 talks about those who just want to take the easy, I-don’t-want-to-work-too-hard-on-this-theology route, likening them to those who would prefer gumming baby food as compared to those who enjoy the work of chewing a good steak.
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
The Emergent books tickle the ear. They are sometimes easier for the uninquisitive to digest, because the Emergent Church is geared toward the unquestioning mindset of today’s consumers. The Bible talks about this very thing, likening the watered-down versions of Christianity to baby food versus the meat of Christian theology.
A group called the Christian Research Service put out a study in 2006 about Christian bookstores. It published a scathing report about where most Christian bookstores are headed.
For a national 2006 conference of Christian retailers, “apparently, not one Training session or Workshop is devoted to:
- teaching Christian bookstore owners, managers, and employees the importance of putting books and materials to the Biblical test, and not compromising God’s holy word under any circumstances;
- encouraging those within the Christian bookstore industry not to compromise the faith by catering to authors and books that promote non-Christian beliefs and religions;
- to deny authors, books, and materials that are in opposition to God’s word from entering their stores;
- apologetics, cult-evangelism, guarding the spiritual welfare of the believer, and defending the faith;
- witnessing to the lost, and gaining discernment through the study of God’s word;
- placing emphasis on the salvation of the lost, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, repentance, Bible study, and that there is a real hell and eternal separation from God.” (http://www.christianresearchservice.com/bookstores4.htm)
This store’s display of kitsch, this paucity of the richness of the early Church Fathers and other great theologians, this embracing of the Christian romance (not too far from the Harlequin Romance) and of Emergent Church writers–this is the sign of the times, in which people will run after whatever tickles the ear instead of the meat of Christian truth.
Just at the times in history when people began to invent their own new Christianity, taking it down dangerous, heretical paths, adherents to the pure truth of Scripture stepped forward and refused to back down to those who would rather take the easier path of heresy. I am crying out to those of you who love the pure meat of the truth, to study.
Study theology; study the history of the Christian church, and you will find it out for yourself. And you will grow sad when you see the watered-down version of popular “Christianity” out there, like I have. And perhaps you too will seek out other like-minded Christians who refuse to budge on the purity of the Gospel in their church.
2 responses to “Where has Christian theology gone?”
Pingback: Christian “kitsch” a sign of the times? | Writing Rhetorically
amen and well said!