The “fast-food” gospel of American evangelicalism

It may surprise some to know, the style of “the gospel” promoted (advertised) by evangelicals is unhistorical and unbiblical. Repentance and baptism have been stripped away to streamline the gospel. Instead men like the late Billy Graham and other evangelists offer an instant, cheap, no strings attached salvation with a lifetime guarantee. What could be better, or more wrong!? (See previous posts, “Evangelicals Five Salvation Myths”)

Why have evangelicals strayed so far off their theological path? They have no choice. They have to own their past or admit being wrong. Instead the craftily reinterpret biblical texts to support their views. Baptism is a work and therefore can’t be part of salvation. Repentance is just another word for “believe” and carries no idea of contrition which would be a pre-requisite to salvation and violate the “faith alone” principle. Salvation is a present one has only to accept.

Like a diet solely of fast-food, American evangelicalism is languid and listless. It is full of spiritually chubby milk fed believers who feed on biblical texts and sermons that coddle and soothe. Few have the theological appetite for “the meat of the word.” A deep and full understanding of major doctrines, church tradition or history are rare.

Salvation is given away without most believers never understanding the gravity of their decision and the requirements that come with it. Repentance demands a prospective believer exercise his or her faith fully cognizant of the cost (Jesus’ death) and their own sinful depravity. Then he or she must pledge to reform their lives to conform to the righteous demands of God. For Jewish Christians this meant the Mosaic Law. For Gentile Christians this meant the moral law and teachings of Jesus.

7″John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”(Luke 3:7-9)

I will make this concession even if I know its wrong. Okay, let’s say a person can become a Christian at home by getting on their knees and inviting Jesus into their lives to take away their sins. Presto! Instant Christian. But now it remains for that person to prove their faith was real by exhibiting a change in behavior. If they don’t show a consistent life of righteousness, they were never saved in the first place. Deeds matter!

16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”(Matthew 7:16-20)

The test as to whether true faith was exercised was “the fruit of repentance.” After conversion, a “Christian” had to demonstrate a life characterized by righteous deeds or “fruit” which proved he or she had truly repented and was therefore saved. Anything less meant genuine faith was absent.

19The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”(Galatians 5:19-26)

At this point we could plough through Romans 1-8 and discuss the concepts of mortification and sanctification as they apply to believers, but most evangelicals are familiar with being “dead to sin and alive in Christ.” They understand they have a new spiritual capacity to transcend the power of sin and live victorious Christian lives as “more than conquerors.” Evangelicals “know” but don’t “do.”

I as much as anyone can tell you becoming a Christian is a huge sacrifice you had better be prepared to make. I converted as a total non Christian at seventeen years of age and remained in the faith for fifteen years. During this time I gave an incredible amount of pleasure which I did willingly because I was so grateful for my salvation.

Remaining celibate until I married (as a virgin) at twenty six was part of my commitment to righteousness. Not watching television or going to movies but instead studying my Bible and praying were acts of devotion and how I maintained intimacy with God. Walking around parks, universities or going door to door and sharing my faith was an obligation and privilege to tell others about the incredible life I enjoyed. Spending thousands of dollars and investing countless hours and energy during eight years of theological studies was essential in equipping me for ministry. I undertook all this unreservedly because it paled in comparison to what Jesus had done for me.

How many evangelicals could echo my words? How many are willing to forego a business degree or medical degree and instead acquire a theological degree? Not many because the sacrifice is to great for what their prepared to give up. They have their ticket to heaven, go to church and read their Bibles occasionally, and that’s enough.

The fundamental problem with American evangelicalism is true repentance is completely missing for obvious reasons. It is largely populated from within by the next generation of believers usually at an early age. Parents socialize their children in the evangelical culture in an attempt to one day illicit a salvation experience. This can be accomplished through them, a family member, friend, church program or para-church organization. While a child may exhibit genuine sorrow for their sins, the enforcement of repentant behavior throughout one’s Christian life is seldom practiced. Accountability or church discipline are rare among evangelicals.

Evangelicals place so much stress on the guarantee of salvation to those who ask at their own eternal peril (as they believe it). If the Bible is true, America is teeming with unsaved non Christians. The New Testament repeatedly warns, believers will be judged on the basis of their “deeds” not whether they asked Jesus in their hearts.

10″For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”(2 Corinthians 5:10)

Those evangelical Christians who can testify to a consistent life of righteous acts displaying humility, generosity, servanthood, compassion, kindness, justice, love and meekness need ever worry. Those who think they can coast into heaven on the basis of a simple prayer and being “good” might be surprised at where they end up.

11″Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”(Revelation 20:11-15)

The reason evangelicals are so complacent and lax in their faith is because they never “counted the cost” before the entered it. Few are converted as adults so repentance is typically a “re-dedication” (sometimes multiple) later in life if at all. And because they become Christian children, they never experience a radical life changing transformation from a sinful nonbeliever to a righteous believer.

13“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”(Matthew 7:13,14)

In a world of over two billions professing Christians, how many will qualify for entrance to heaven, biblically speaking?

44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”(Matthew 25:44-46)

How many evangelicals view the world through the eyes of Jesus? Do they honestly think ignoring the needs of the less fortunate will go unnoticed. Enjoying the comfort of fellow believers and avoiding getting their hands dirty in the service to others is exactly what Jesus cautioned against.

26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”(Luke 14:26,27)

Verses such as these are uncomfortable for evangelicals because it interferes with their lives of comfort and convenience. They want to be told it’s okay to be happy and successful and an obedient follower of Jesus. Being a follower of Jesus requires dedication and commitment. It involves sacrifice, service and suffering.

The purpose of this article is to draw awareness to the insipid brand of American evangelicalism and offer the underlying reasons why it exists. Evangelicals are seeking to gain more influence in politics to effect change that conforms to their ideology. This is dangerous and most be aggressively resisted.

Evangelicals have no moral authority to legislate change. The follow an untested faith of ancient superstitions which they pass off as the absolute word of God. It is ridiculous a country as advanced as America continues to indulge a faith simply because of its past role in the countries development. It may have indeed once served a beneficial purpose and provided great value to its adherents, but it has outlived its usefulness. Instead it is infecting society with its noxious brand of Christianity. Attacking the LGBTQ community, women’s advocacy groups, immigrants and minority and resisting efforts to improve environmental stewardship.

NOTE: Not all evangelicals are created equal. In fact some are opposite to one another. These articles are intended to target any Christian who uses the Bible as a divine authority to effect change particularly in the removing or restricting the rights and freedoms of others. It may be appealed to as a collection of ancient religious writings containing helpful moral and ethical guidelines while cautioning some teachings promote racism, sexism and bigotry.

The only reason the Bible and Christianity have survived so long and continue to occupy a prominent place in society and people’s lives is its exploitation of fear (death and hell) and promise of hope (eternal life in heaven). Until we see the Bible as a book of religious fairy tales, we remain under its divine spell.

Published by ronarends

I was born in London, Ontario, Canada. I attended Capernwray Bible School (England and Austria), Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, Il.), the University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario), London Baptist Seminary (London, Ontario) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas, Tx.). I have had several temporary jobs over the years but my focus has alway been on an investigative study of the Bible, Jesus and Christianity particularly evangelicalism. Currently editing a massive literary undertaking deconstructing Christianity and Jesus.

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