If you ask the average man or woman on the street if he or she believes in God, you’re likely to get a “Yes.” In fact, most Americans say they believe in God despite the general secularism of American society.
But, probe a little behind that “yes,” and you’ll hear a lot of “Yes, but…”
- “…but not like organized religion talks about Him.”
- “…but not like the Bible portrays Him.”
- “…but I’m not religious.” (i.e. “I’m not associated with a church”)
The fact is that modern Americans are largely “Yes, but…” believers. This allows them to keep the faith and spirituality they want, while divorcing faith from the religious trappings they don’t want: the Bible and the Church.
The American Faith
How did American faith get this way? I blame American churches (of all kinds). On any given Sunday morning you could find a grab bag of boutique doctrines, moralism, false mysticism, superstitions, legalism, emotional drama, psychological manipulation, theological liberalism, or outright heresy that confuses, ignores, and/or denies the central messages of the Bible. In such a confusing theological potpourri, it’s no wonder individuals decide to make up whatever faith pleases them most. And the faith that seems to please Americans most is what Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith has called, “Moralistic, therapeutic deism,” that is, God/religion is here to help you get through the tough times of life and teach you how to be a good person so you can go to heaven when you die.
End of story.
Don’t sweat the details.
Have you noticed what’s missing in the “Yes, but…” faith I described above? Or, should I say, “Who’s missing?
In the “Yes, but…” faith, there is no need for Jesus. We can relate to God on our terms and achieve everlasting life the same way.
God’s Son? The cross? The resurrection?
…the faith recorded in the Bible, the faith entrusted to the Church, is the faith about Jesus.
But, I believe that the faith recorded in the Bible, the faith entrusted to the Church, is the faith about Jesus. There’s no such thing as a “Christ-less” Christian faith. What makes faith “Christian” is what we believe about Jesus Christ: Who He is; what He accomplished; and why it was necessary. The extent to which we understand who Jesus is, trust what He has done for us, and understand why we needed it, is the extent to which our faith is truly Christian faith.
Shame on our churches for not making this clear to us.
Shame on us Christians for not making this clear to our “Yes, but…” neighbors.
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