We Don’t Need a “New” Christianity
In our modern world, everything gets billed as being new. New phone, new car, new sports equipment…heck, even shaving razors and electric toothbrushes come out with the “latest technology”! Everything has to be new, or else it is rendered unimportant. Anything that sticks to the status quo is doomed to be considered antiquated and out-of-date in no time. (Of course, nothing is really new (Ecclesiastes 1:9), only reinvented from the past, but that’s a post for a different day.)
Along with this idea of needing to be new, some are making this concept applicable to religion, and in the case of this article, Christianity in particular. Christianity is considered by many to be an ancient religion that is woefully out of touch with modern reality. Maybe it worked for previous generations (and even that is highly questioned) but it certainly does not have any place in our current, highly-evolved society.
But, what if Christianity was made new?
What if we could take the historic Christian faith and adapt it to our sophisticated era? What if we could take its “good” tenets and drop those that don’t fit with modern understandings of reality? What if we simply adapted the religion to fit the need of our current culture, and left the rest of the stone-age ideas on the cutting room floor? Could Christianity still have a place then?
That is the idea that some are putting forth. Many who suggest such a thing are, in fact, self-proclaiming Christians. Perhaps one of the more prominent examples would be popular author Brian McLaren, who for over a decade has been putting forth such a notion. The reinventing of Christianity is a theme in his writing, but perhaps made most clear in the title of one book called A New Kind of Christianity. Without going into great detail, the premise is that Christianity can be extremely relevant in today’s society as long as we change it from it’s narrow, judgmental, God-of-wrath existence into a more accepting, diverse, and tolerant religion.
More specifically, its not so much that Christianity itself needs to be adapted as much as the root of Christian faith needs adaptation, that being the Bible. If we could just mould the Bible to fit each culture’s needs and viewpoints, then Christianity would be a valuable faith and would be fit to have a prominent place in society.
This view was stated well by Piers Morgan not long ago, when, in a discussion with Mark Driscoll on the issue of homosexuality, said:
The Bible is what it is; it’s an extraordinary book which has governed people’s moral and personal behaviours now for thousands of years. However, like everything in life, shouldn’t it be dragged kicking and screaming into each modern era and be adapted like the American Constitution?
Give Piers credit for saying it like it is. Piers, unlike McLaren, admits that what he is attempting to do is change the Bible, not just question conventional interpretations of it.
So, what are we to do? Should we change the Bible and make a new Christianity?
The simple and obvious response is, “of course not!” We cannot simply change the Bible or reinvent Christianity because we have no right to do so. Adapting the Bible assumes that it is a man-made creation which could use some updating and modern insight. But that is not what the Bible claims to be. The Bible claims to be the Word of God, meaning that it is not of human origin but rather finds its origins in God. God himself is the Author. And, as mere human beings, we are in no position to edit God.
…knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)
That is the first and most crucial thing to understand. The Bible is from God. Now, not everyone believes that and so I can understand their desire to throw it away or adapt it to fit today’s world. But for anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ or inside the household of faith, to suggest that the Bible needs editing or that Christianity needs reinventing is simply inexcusable. It is to have a very low view of Scripture and undermine the authority of God.
Another thing needs to be said. Christianity – and by that I mean the pure, unadapted gospel of Jesus Christ – is not to be tampered with. The Christian faith and its core beliefs are meant to be unchanging. The fundamental truths about God, mankind, and the salvation that Jesus offers are truths that stand for all of time. Of that the Bible is repeatedly and unquestionably clear.
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)
By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:14)
The language of these texts, among others, makes it clear that Christianity is not meant to be adapted. It was delivered “once for all” and is a “deposit” that has been “entrusted” to the Church. We are not to change it but simply be “reminded” of it and pass it on unaltered. The truth of God’s Word is not open for discussion. It is the truth, spoken by God himself, and we are to submit to it. The fact that we wish to change the Bible and reinvent Christianity simply displays our sinful human nature clearly: we want to be God. We don’t like God to rule over us. We want to believe and do whatever we want. When God disagrees with us, it is God who must change. We get to choose what is proper and what is not. And if we change our mind later on down the road, once again it is God who must follow suit.
Friends, this is no small matter. Tampering with the faith that has been once for all delivered to the saints is nothing short of blasphemy and the utmost offense against God. Suggesting that this faith, which has been designed by God, is somehow insufficient or is unsuitable demonstrates a lack of trust at best and a detestable sense of pride at worst. God does not need fixing. His Word does not need changing. His gospel does not need tweaking. His truth does not need bending. But what we do need is our own hearts and wills to be fixed, changed, tweaked, and bent towards his.
To change the Bible or reinvent Christianity is to lose it altogether. It comes as a package deal: either you take all of it or you reject all of it, but sort through and pick out what you like you cannot do. The true faith, unchanged and unaltered, is the only hope for mankind. Jesus, our great God in the flesh, has come to live a sinless life in our place, and then willingly die in our place, so that our guilt could be on him and his righteousness on us. By this sacrifice we can be forgiven by God and reconciled to God. Jesus then rose triumphantly from the grave to seal his victory and gives us the Holy Spirit to secure our redemption and help us until we enter the Kingdom of God. This is the core of our faith. To change it, or redefine it, even one tiny bit, is to sap it of its saving power. May we never be found guilty of such a thing!